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SDrtt to dBmce an& Kmw 



University of Pennsylvania 


TTtf Johns Hopkins University 




Professor of Latin^ The University of Chicago 

















"When one religion finally supplants another, it 
generally takes over from its predecessor such of 
its usages as seem harmless or praiseworthy." 

LEGGE, Forerunners and Rivals 
of Christianity , 1.84-85. 


IN THIS treatment of survivals the term 
" Roman religion " has been used with its 
current comprehensiveness and so includes 
all the cults, of whatever provenance, that 
found a following in Rome. It is not of course 
a logical designation but it has the merit of be- 
ing a convenient one. Strictly speaking, " Ro- 
man religion " would mean that animism which 
prevailed before the period of the Tarquin 
dynasty when Greek influence, streaming into 
Rome from Etruria on the north and Magna 
Graecia on the south, transformed the whole 
system through the introduction of imitative 
temples and borrowed statue types. Nor did 
the process of transformation and accretion 
cease with the introduction of gods and forms 
of ritual from other parts of Italy and from 
Greece. As early as the Hannibalic war the 
Romans showed interest in the worship of Cy- 



bele, the Great Mother of the Gods, a Phrygian 
nature-goddess, and established her cult on the 
Palatine Hill. Later other Oriental divinities 
were introduced, and although many of them 
failed to obtain recognition by the state they 
formed an important part of the religious com- 
plex in Rome and Italy. Still another element 
in the situation was the cult of the deified em- 
perors which, initiated by the deification of 
Julius Caesar, flourished till the time of Maxen- 

Of the nature of these religions and -of the his- 
tory of their development in Rome no attempt 
has been made to give a detailed or systematic 
account in this essay. Only those cults or 
phases of cults have been mentioned of which 
there seem to be survivals, and in the case of 
those mentioned only enough has been said to 
clarify the background of the survival. It is 
only with survivals, that is with the " debt " 
of later civilization to the religious beliefs and 
practices of the Romans, that the book is con- 

[ viii ] 


The order of presentation is only roughly 
chronological. The survivals of indigenous 
cults are given first, and these are followed by 
a discussion of the traces that remain of the 
foreign gods worshipped in Rome and of em- 
peror-worship. Then various relics of ancient 
religious belief, ritual or practice have been 
described, and at the end a brief account of 
material remains has been added. 

The precarious character of any study in 
survivals for the subject is even more peril- 
ous than the search for traces of influence in 
literary genetics has been kept in mind 
throughout, and the plan has been to designate 
nothing as a survival till after careful scrutiny. 
The intemperate tone of some of the writings 
on the subject for example Trede's books 
which, though containing much valuable infor- 
mation, are marred by exaggeration and hos- 
tility to the Church has been sufficient warn- 
ing of the danger of hasty conclusions. And in 
cases where it has been difficult to distinguish 
between survivals and parallels and these 



are numerous the available data, often ob- 
viously inadequate, have been given and the de- 
cision left to the reader. 

Baffling as the study of survivals often is, it 
is none the less interesting, and the number and 
importance of the remains become more and 
more impressive as one pursues the quest. For 
the investigation of the subject, by showing 
that so many old beliefs and forms of ritual, 
instead of perishing, have been drawn into the 
fabric of modern religion, brings home more 
vividly than any other kind of inquiry the con- 
viction of the continuity of religious experience. 













MARY 92 
















JESUS 141 


LIGHT 143 
















LIFE 230 



FUND 259 

[ xiii ] 







THE EARLIEST Roman religion of 
which we have any record was a sys- 
tem of pandemonism. There was a 
spirit a demon it was often called in 
every object, every act, every process and 
sometimes in every stage of a process. There 
is no better example of this than the succession 
of spirits that watched over each period of a 
man's life from birth to death. Juno Lucina, 
Candelifera and the Carmentes aided at birth. 
It was Vagitanus only who could inspire the 
first cry. Cunina guarded the infant in its 
cradle, giving place to Cuba when the small 
Roman attained the distinction of a bed. By 


Rumina he was taught how to take his mother's 
milk; Edusa and Potina watched over him in 
the days of his weaning. Fabulinus taught him 
to talk; Statilinus to stand; Abeona and 
Adeona attended him in his first ventures from 
the house; as he grew to maturity Catius 
sharpened his wits, Sentia deepened his feeling, 
while Volumna stiffened his will. And so he 
was passed from god to god and the long line 
of divine relays only ended when Viduus parted 
body and soul. (Extreme specialization is also 
seen in the list of twelve spirits to whom the 
priest of Ceres appealed at the beginning of the 
sowing seasoni] The special functions of these 
covered every stage in the growing of crops 
from the breaking of the soil to the storing and 
distribution of the grain. The names of these 
spirits are, like those of the spirits of the periods 
of life just mentioned, obviously derived from 
their special activities: x e.g., Obarator (arare, 
to plough), Sarritor (sarrire, to hoe), Messor 
(met ere, to reap), and Conditor (condere, to 
store). Another instance of this characteristic 
of Roman religion is seen in the case of the 

1 The full list is: Vervactor, Reparator, Imporcitor, 
Insitor, Obarator, Occator, Sarritor, Subruncinator, Messor, 
Convector, Conditor and Promitor. 



house, every part of which had its guardian 
divinity, as Servius points out in his com- 
mentary on Virgil/ where he specifies Forculus 
(fores, door), Cardea (cardo, hinge), and 
Limentinus (limen, threshold). 

But the evidence of this particularistic 
character of Roman religion is not confined to 
these lists of obscure spirits. The gods of the 
Roman pantheon in general even the great- 
est of them showed, in their origin at least, a 
high degree of specialization. In some cases 
the original function of the divinity expanded 
in different directions but in others the early 
specialization maintained its old limits. Janus 
was the god of the door, Vesta of the hearth, 
Faunus of the forest, Pales of pasture land, 
Fons of springs, Volturnus of running streams, 
Saturn of sowing, Ceres of growth, Flora of 
blossom, Pomona of fruit, and Consus of har- 
vest. Even the great god Jupiter, manifold 
as his powers subsequently became, was at first 
only the spirit of the bright sky. 3 

It is not necessary to give other examples of 

2 Aeneid, II. 469: singula (membra) enim domus sacrata 
sunt deis. 

3 See Rose's discussion of Roman polydemonism in 
Primitive Cultwe in Italy, 44. 



this tendency. It pervaded the whole religious 
system. Its persistence, either with or without 
modification, in the case of the well-known 
gods of Rome is too familiar a fact to require 
comment. And there can be but little doubt 
that the highly specialized demonism exempli- 
fied by the lists given at the beginning of this- 
chapter endured also to some extent in the later 
periods. Doubtless the introduction of gods 
from foreign countries and the development of 
an elaborate ritual in some of the Greek or 
Oriental cults diverted the minds of many from 
the old system. But there is no evidence that 
it ever completely passed away, and there must 
have been many people, especially in the rural 
districts, whose belief in a world swarming with 
spirits differed but little from that of their 
remote progenitors. Particularization was too 
inherent a part of Roman religious belief to 
yield entirely to any influence. Plutarch speaks 
of spirits who carried men's wishes to the higher 
gods. Maximus of Tyre tells us of minor dei- 
ties who healed disease, aided men in various 
crises, accompanied and watched over them, 
and guarded cities and countryside. The stories 
of miraculous cures in temples told in his Ser- 
mones sacri by the rhetorician Aristides who 


lived in the time of Marcus Aurelius attest the 
widespread belief in manifold agencies of super- 
natural assistance. 4 The vogue of the Neo- 
platonic philosophy in the third century after 
Christ resulted in a renewal of belief in the 
existence of great numbers of subordinate and 
intermediate spirits. Nor has there ever been 
a satisfactory demonstration of the theory 
that in enumerating the names of these 
minute and obscure departmental deities the 
Church Fathers were merely resurrecting from 
earlier records, for purposes of ridicule, reli- 
gious conceptions that had long ceased to be 

So much for the pandemonism of the ancient 
Romans. Enough has been said to show how 
deeply rooted in their minds this attitude 
toward supernatural powers was. It was one 
of the most important phases of their religious 
consciousness and was to such an extent of the 
very essence of their faith that it was bound to 
survive. And survive it did. For though there 
is a notable difference in the character of the 
supernatural beings that in the fourth century 
succeeded to the multitudinous functions of the 

4 Trede, Das Heidenthum in der romischen Kirche, 
Anhang, I. 317. 



old departmental spirits, there is little or no 
change In the attitude of mind. Such a docu- 
ment as the Sermones sacri of Aristides men- 
tioned above demonstrates the facility of the 
transition from the old to the new, from the 
pagan to the Christian. For Aristides' accounts 
of wonderful cures have often been spoken of 
as forerunners of the legends of Saints. 


AND it is in the doctrine of the veneration of 
Saints that the polytheism of the old depart- 
mental deities survives. It may be that the 
founders of Christianity found that the belief of 
the people especially the Illiterate class in 
these specialized spirits of minor grade was one 
of their greatest problems. They recognized 
the people's predilection for spirits that would 
help in specific situations, and they realized 
also that the masses felt more at home with 
beings who, while of divine nature or associa- 
tions, were not too far removed from the human 
level. They were keenly interested in winning 
the pagans to the faith and they succeeded. 
But undoubtedly one element in their success 
was the inclusion in their system of the doc- 
trine of the veneration of Saints. They seem to 


have felt that in order to make any headway 
at all, it was necessary for them to match the 
swarms of spirits available for the pagans with 
a multitude of wonder-working saints and mar- 
tyrs. How far they were prepared to go is indi- 
cated by their favorable attitude toward the 
pagan veneration of Virgil that amounted al- 
most to deification. Apparently most of the 
churchmen of the period of the conflict of re- 
ligions proclaimed the greatness of Virgil and 
placed him almost on a level with the biblical 
prophets. They sought evidence of the truth of 
Christianity in pagan literature and insisted 
that Virgil had prophesied the coming of 
Christ. Everyone is familiar with the mass 
of literature that has grown up around the so- 
called Messianic Eclogue. Not only Virgil was 
glorified but also the pagan Sibyls who were 
thought to have inspired his words. The Sibyls 
too were given a place beside the Old Testa- 
ment prophets. 

There have been many discussions of the 
relation of the doctrine of jthe veneration of 
Saints to various phases of Roman religion, 
ranging from the notably temperate treatment 
of Lucius 5 to the more positive statements 

6 Die Anfange des Heiligenkults, 



of Renan 6 and Harnack 7 and the uncompro- 
mising assertions of Trede, 8 " P. Saintyves " 9 
and Salomon Reinach. 10 Renan for example 
says that any peasant who prays to a particu- 
lar saint for a cure for his horse or ox or drops 
a coin into the box of a miraculous chapel is in 
that act pagan. He is responding to the 
prompting of a religious feeling that is older 
than Christianity and so deep-set that Christi- 
anity has not been able to root it out. Har- 
nack sees in the veneration of Saints nothing 
but a recrudescence of pagan polytheism. 

The term " veneration of Saints " has been 
used advisedly. For in any fair discussion of 
this subject it should be remembered that the 
Church has never taught the worship of Saints. 
Every enlightened churchman knows this, but 
whether the peasants of southern Italy and 
other parts of Europe distinguish with any 
degree of precision between veneration and 
worship is another question. It is not likely 
that they do, and for those who are looking for 
evidence of the continuance of the creative 

6 Hibbert Lectures, 32. 

7 Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, II. 442. 

8 Op. cit.y passim. 

9 Les Saints, successeurs des dieux. 

10 Orpheus. Histoire generate des religions. 



power of Roman religion, the beliefs of the 
illiterate are of as much importance as the 
formulated doctrines of the Church. Our sub- 
ject is not survivals of paganism in the modern 
Church but survivals in modern times. 

A good example of the closeness of the re- 
semblance of the specialization of function of 
different Saints to that of pagan spirits is found 
in the published lists of Saints used by Spanish 
peasants. The very publication of the list em- 
phasizes the similarity of the situation to that 
which existed in ancient Roman times, when the 
people, overwhelmed by the number and mul- 
tiplicity of names of the departmental dei- 
ties, used to appeal to the official list kept by 
the pontiffs. Here are some of the examples 
furnished by the Spanish index: San Serapio 
should be appealed to in case of stomache-ache; 
Santa Polonia for toothache; San Jose, San 
Juan Bautista and Santa Catalina for head- 
ache; San Bernardo and San Cirilo for indi- 
gestion; San Luis for cholera; San Francisco 
for colic; San Ignacio and Santa Lutgarda for 
childbirth; Santa Balsania for scrofula; San 
Felix for ulcers; Santa Agueda for nursing 
mothers; San Babilas for burns; San Gorge for 
an infected cut; Santa Quiteria for dog's bite; 


San Ciriaco for diseases of the ear; Santa 
Lucia for the eyes; Santa Bibiana for epi- 
lepsy; San Gregorio for frost-bite; San Panta- 
leon for haemorrhoids; San Roque for the 
plague; Santa Dorothea for rheumatism; San 
Pedro for fever; and Santa Rita for the 
impossible ! 

There is a similar list for southern Italy, the 
Saints and their functions sometimes coinciding 
with the Spanish classification but in other 
cases showing variations. San Roque for ex- 
ample is associated with cases of plague in 
Italian legends 1X just as in Spain. To the 
Italians also the intercession of Santa Lucia is 
efficacious for sore eyes. San Giuseppe, how- 
ever, to south Italians seems to be connected 
with the interpretation of dreams. Giuseppe 
had interpreted dreams to Pharaoh during his 
life time, and it was believed that he retained 
his interest in them after death. 12 Santa Anna 

11 Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art, II. 425 ff. 

12 Among other things San Giuseppe is sometimes asked 
to bring his suppliant luck in the next drawing of the 

casto Giuseppe 
Che spiegaste i sogni , 
A Faraone 

Portatemi tre numeri 
Per questa estrazione. 



is the patron Saint of women in childbirth in 
Naples and its neighborhood. The prayers ad- 
dressed to her are strikingly like those with 
which pagan women appealed to Juno Lucina; 
and perhaps it is not entirely fanciful to trace 
a connection between the candles with which 
Santa Anna is worshipped and Lucina (from 
lux, light), the epithet of Juno as a goddess of 

The similarity in attitude of mind of pagan 
and Christian devotees and the survival of the 
polytheistic idea in modern times may be seen 
in a comparison of the behavior of the people 
who watched the procession which preceded the 
circus games in ancient Rome and that of the 
crowd which fills the streets of Naples today 
on the occasion of the festival held in May in 
honor of San Gennaro, the patron saint of the 
city. In the old Roman procession a conspicu- 
ous place was given to the images of the gods 
that were borne along in floats; and as they 
were carried past, pious Romans called upon 
the names of those whom they regarded as 
their special protectors. So too at the Naples 
festival. In the procession referred to the 
images of many Saints, each of them with 
his own place in the affections of the Neapolitan 


proletariat, are carried from the Cathedral to 
the Church of Santa Chiara. Saints of all cen- 
turies are there, some of whom attained the 
dignity hundreds of years ago, while others are 
more recent creations. As the procession moves 
along, persons in the crowd call out the name 
of their patron Saint, and when the image 
of San Biagio a sort of Christian Aescula- 
pius with special powers in diseases of the 
throat passes by, the Neapolitan mothers 
hold up their croupy bambini and implore a 

But it is not only in southern Europe that 
the ancient particularism of divine function still 
survives. For example in Prussia St. Goar is 
the patron of potters, St. Crispin of shoe- 
makers; St. Nicholas of boatmen; St. Apol- 
lonia cures tooth-ache; St. Laurence rheuma- 
tism; and St. Agatha is guardian of the 
household fire. 18 In the region of the Vosges 
St. Catharine helps women find husbands, St. 
Sabina cures the pangs of love, while St. Abdon 
is believed to drive away fleas. 14 This special- 

13 Kerler, Die Patronate der Heiligen; Deubner, De 

14 Kroll, in article on " Momentary Gods," in Hastings, 
Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (referred to in this 
book as E. R. .), VIII. 778. 



ization of the Saints is clearly recognized in 
the Diario Romano where St. Blaise, St. Li- 
berius and St. Martha are assigned curative 
powers in the case of sore throat, gallstone, and 
epidemics respectively. 



CHIEF among the domestic gods were 
the Lares, called Lares domestici or 
Lares familiares indifferently, who to- 
gether with the Penates were regularly wor- 
shipped in the Roman household. Originally 
there had been only one Lar familiaris, 1 but 
from about the beginning of the first century 
B.C. they were two in number, and as we know 
from the statuettes and the paintings found at 
Pompeii and elsewhere, they were commonly 
represented in the form of youthful dancing 
figures. In houses of the humbler type these 
little images were generally kept in a niche 
near the hearth in the atrium (which was often 
kitchen, dining room, and living room in one), 
but in the more pretentious dwellings they were 
placed in a small shrine (lararium), a sort of 
miniature temple on a pedestal which stood in 
a corner of the atrium or peristyle. They were 

1 Cf. the prologue of Plautus* Aulidana. 


the guardian spirits of the family and watched 
over its safety and prosperity. Their worship 
was part of the daily life of the Romans. An 
offering of food and wine was made to them by 
the master of the house after the chief course 
of the dinner every day. And there were 
special offerings to them on occasions of par- 
ticular importance, such as a birth, a naming 
or a wedding. Many fond references to these 
" little gods " are made by the poets. Horace 2 
for example tells of their images crowned with 
rosemary and myrtle, and Tibullus 3 recalls the 
days of his childhood when he played about 
their feet. One cannot read such passages as 
these without realizing that the attitude of the 
Romans toward them was one of affection, and 
that in the whole pantheon there were no gods 
nearer or dearer to them than these. All the 
members of the family seem to have felt the 
closeness of the relation; it was a part of their 
religious heritage. For while they knew of 
other and more powerful divinities, they had 
not been brought up in such intimate contact 
with any of them and so never attained the 
degree of familiarity and homely constancy of 

2 Od., in. 23. 15. 
8 1. 10. 15. 


faith that they felt toward the Lares. In this 
distinctive quality of the Romans' attitude 
toward them lies the explanation of the fact 
that their worship more than any other re- 
sisted the influence of the Greek and Oriental 
cults imported into Rome. It showed little or 
no change through the regal, republican and 
imperial periods. 

For this study, however, the significant fact 
is not that the cult lasted through the whole 
period of the Empire but that it has not even 
yet entirely disappeared. The belief in these 
friendly and protecting house-spirits was so 
closely woven into the religious consciousness 
of the people that in various parts of Italy it 
survived the passing of that religious system 
of which it had originally been a part. For 
example the house-spirit called Monacello, 
"Little Monk" whose diminutive wooden 
image is found in so many peasants' houses in 
the neighborhood of Naples and Salerno, is a 
survival of the Roman Lar; 4 and the same is 
true of the Aguriellu, " Little Augur," the spirit 
of the household that is seen so often in 
the houses of the peasantry in Calabria. 5 

4 Trede, op. tit., I. 127. 

5 Dorsa, La Tradizione greco-latina, 115. 



These are specific survivals of the cult of the 

In another example, of far greater interest 
on account of its implications, we find not direct 
survival indeed but a very strong probability of 
influence. This is the case of the figurines of 
the infant Jesus found in houses on the island 
of Capri. 6 These are made of wood, just as 
the Roman Lares often were, and in size and 
equipment resemble their ancient prototypes. 
But images of this class are not confined to 
Capri. The most famous of all these figurines 
of the child Christ is the Santissimo Bambino 
of the Church of S. Maria in Aracoeli on the 
Capitoline Hill in Rome. This image has had 
a long and interesting history. It is believed 
that when loaned to some faithful member of 
the Church and taken to his house it bestows 
blessings on his family. Placed on the bed of 
some invalid it is thought to bring relief from 
suffering and restoration to health. In a word 
it has been a source of comfort, encourage- 
ment, and well-being to afflicted families just 
as the Lares were in the days of old. 

A legend of the Penates, domestic spirits 
closely associated with the Lares, is matched by 

6 Trede, op. cit., II. 210. 



a story told of this image of the Bambino. It 
is said that on one occasion when it had been 
stolen, it found its way back to the Church. 
This, it will be noticed, is substantially the 
same story as that told about the oldest Pena- 
tes in the history of Rome. For when Aeneas' 
son Ascanius, after his father's death, took 
the Penates from Lavinium to Alba Longa, 
they returned of their own accord to Lavinium, 
and it was then decided to leave them there/ 
While this tale, which is obviously an aetiologi- 
cal legend invented to explain the continuance 
of the worship of the Roman Penates at La- 
vinium, may have been transferred directly 
from them to the Bambino, it is more likely 
that the story about the latter arose independ- 
ently, similarity in conception of deity resulting 
in similarity of legend. 

In other places in Italy it is the Madonna 
that has succeeded the Lar as the spirit of the 
household; in still others Saints are found with 
a similar function. 8 

So far only one class of Lares has been men- 
tioned, namely Lares domestici or familiares. 
But there were many other kinds. In fact, as I 

7 Preller- Jordan, op. tit., II. 162. 

8 Daremberg-Saglio, Dictionnaire, III' 2 . 947. 



have pointed out elsewhere, 9 it is probable that 
.the word Lares is a generic term for spirits, 
and their special field is indicated in each case 
by the epithet. Of some of these other classes 
of Lares we find survivals in the veneration of 
Saints in modern times. For example, the old 
tradition that it was the Lares publici, also 
called the Lares praestites, the guardian spirits 
of the whole community, who drove Hannibal 
away when he appeared before the walls of 
Rome in 211 B.C., has its analogue in the story 
that St. Matthew, who is the patron Saint of 
Salerno and whose bones are said to lie in the 
crypt of the Cathedral there, on more than one 
occasion drove away the pirate fleets of the 
Saracens and saved the city. Another well- 
known class of Lares was that of the Lares 
compitales, the spirits of the crossroads. There 
were innumerable shrines in their honor 
throughout the rural districts. Moreover, 
especially from the time of Augustus, many 
sanctuaries had been erected to them at street 
corners in Rome and other cities. Of the popu- 
larity of this worship of crossroads spirits there 
is adequate evidence, and of its survival sub- 
stantial indications are found in the attacks 

9 Classical Philology, XVI, 124-40 (1921). 


made by mediaeval writers on the custom of 
offering sacrifices and lighting candles at cross- 
roads. 10 Nor can it be doubted that the com- 
mon practice in Italy and other countries of 
erecting chapels to saints at crossroads goes 
back ultimately to the pagan worship of 
the Lares compitales. Apparently the earlier 
churchmen found that it was impossible to 
divert the people from their crossroads super- 
stitions, and so they adopted a plan that they 
used on many other occasions. They tacitly 
recognized the sanctity of the site, but by sub- 
stituting Christian saints for pagan spirits they 
succeeded in giving the religious aspirations of 
the devotees a new direction. Of the strength 
of the belief in the efficacy of these wayside 
shrines, we have evidence in an incident of the 
epidemic of cholera in Naples in 1884. The 
people attributed the scourge to the walling up 
of many of the niches that had been used as 
street shrines. So vehement was their protest 
that the old niches were reopened and many 
new ones added. The effect on the Neapoli- 
tans was precisely the same as that recorded so 
often for the Romans by Livy and other ancient 
writers, when proper measures had been taken 

10 Cf. Caspari, Kirchenhist. Anecdota, I. 172, 175. 


to placate divinities to the neglect of whose 
rites they attributed the affliction of a plague 
or some other disaster. 


THE pagan idea of tutelary spirits dominating 
particular fields contributed also to the Chris- 
tian conception of angels. It was not the chief 
source of the belief, which goes back to Jewish 
or Chaldaean traditions, but it influenced cer- 
tain phases of the doctrine. Mention has al- 
ready been made of the numerous spirits which 
watched over the different stages of life. In 
addition to these there was a guardian spirit 
for every man and woman a sort of double 
or alter ego who attended one through life. 
The spirit for men was called Genius, that for 
women Juno. It was so closely bound up with 
the person that it was not infrequently identi- 
fied with him. " To indulge one's Genius " in 
Latin means to indulge one's self; " to take care 
of one's Genius" is the equivalent of taking 
care of one's self. 

This idea had influence on the early Chris- 
tian conception of angels. The fathers of the 
Church taught that every one had his guardian 
angel who attended him from the day of his 



birth to his death. Touching descriptions of 
the devotion of angels to their charges are 
found in Christian literature; and students of 
Dante will recall that passage where the guar- 
dian angel visits the sinner in purgatory, com- 
forts him with the thought that his expiation 
will end at last, and finally when the term of 
suffering is over bears him to the Savior. 11 

Although the Church has never given formal 
recognition to the belief, Christianity has none 
the less its guardian angels. Chief among them 
is the archangel Raphael, guardian spirit of all 
humanity, whose function as inherited from 
Hebrew sources found ready acceptance among 
the early Christians in Italy in whose religious 
beliefs tutelary spirits held so important a 
place. 12 But there are other guardian angels 
also. Certainly from Silvio Pellico's Le Mie 
Prigioni one gets the impression of an Italian 
belief not in one guardian spirit only but in 
many. And in Naples there is an annual festi- 
val of the Angeli Custodi. 

11 Pwgatorio, C. VIII. 

12 The famous painter Raffaello, who was the son of 
Giovanni Santi of Urbino, was so named because he was 
born on the festival day of this guardian angel. 



IN POMPEIAN houses and elsewhere we 
frequently find a serpent or a pair of serpents 
associated with the Lares and the Genius of 
the paterfamilias the " three gods " men- 
tioned in one of the Pompeian wall-inscriptions. 1 
Some paintings represent the serpent as coiled 
around an altar; others as approaching the altar 
to partake of the offerings that had been laid 
upon it; while still others show two serpents, 
male and f emale ; crawling toward the altar from 
either side. So far as we can determine, these 
serpents are connected with the Genius. The 
subject, however, is an obscure one, and even 
the ancients were sometimes in doubt about it. 
When Virgil speaks of the serpent that crept 
from Anchises' tomb, he represents Aeneas as 
uncertain whether it was the Genius of the 
place or an attendant of his father. 2 At any 
rate, whatever the significance of the serpents 

1 C. I. L. IV. 1679: habeas propiteos deos tuos tresl 

2 Aeneid, V. 95: Geniumne loci famulumne parentis esse 



may have been, the painted representations of 
them were common in Roman dwellings, and 
we know from many sources that tame snakes 
were often kept in houses. 3 

This serpent-cult has not entirely passed 
away. In southern Italy, especially in Cala- 
bria, harmless snakes are kept as house-pets. 4 
They are regarded moreover as the incarnation 
of protecting spirits and the departure of one 
of them from its home portends disaster for 
the household. 

The Romans associated serpents with other 
deities besides the Genius. Snakes were kept 
in the precinct of the temple of Aesculapius on 
the island in the Tiber, and there were some 
also in one of the temple-buildings of the Bona 
Dea on the Aventine. But the cult of Aescula- 
pius was a Greek importation, and that of the 
Bona Dea, although originally Roman, was 
under strong Greek influence. 5 The serpent- 

3 Pliny, N. H. f XXIX. 4. 22. 72 ; Servius on Aeneid, V. 
95; Fowler, Roman Festivals (referred to in this book as 
R. F.), 104. 

4 Dorsa, op. cit., 28. He says that even lizards are so 

5 Bona Dea was not at first the name of the divinity. 
It was merely a descriptive term applied to the old in- 
digenous deity Fauna. On the identification of the Bona 
Dea Fauna with the Greek goddess Damia, whose cult 



worship in the cult of Aesculapius therefore 
was certainly Greek and in that of Bona Dea 
probably so. But there is no evidence of for- 
eign influence in the case of the serpent con- 
nected with the cult of Juno Sospita of 
Lanuvium. It was kept in a cave near the 
sanctuary and the story of its use as a test 
of virginity is told by Propertius 6 and other 

What has been said shows that serpents had 
a place in more than one kind of Roman re- 
ligious observance: namely in the worship of 
the household gods, in that of divinities of 
healing (for the Bona Dea was active in this 
field as well as Aesculapius ), and in such a cult 
as that of Juno Sospita who was primarily con- 
nected with the functions of women. It is in- 
deed probable that serpent-worship was indige- 
nous in Italy at an early period. The ready 
acceptance by the Romans of the serpents as- 
sociated with Aesculapius or any other Greek 
divinity was in all likelihood due to the fact 
that no new or strange idea of divinity was 

probably came to Rome from Tarentum, the Roman fea- 
tures of the worship fell into desuetude. Cf. Wissowa. 
Religion und Kuitus der Romer (referred to in this book 
as R. u. K.), 216. 
IV. 8. 


involved. The conception was one with which 
the natives of Italy had been familiar from 
time immemorial. And we may reasonably 
trace back to ancient times the widespread 
belief in southern Italy that a snakeskin is a 
magical agency. It is put under the pillow of 
the sick. Moreover, it is probable that we have 
a survival of an ancient cult in that annual 
procession at Cocullo (near the country of the 
ancient Marsi) in which men bearing live ser- 
pents pass before the statue of S. Domenico of 
Foligno, itself also hung with serpents. And 
we find an odd example of the endurance of 
local beliefs in the fact that the people of this 
region today regard themselves as immune from 
snake-bite and endowed with special power in 
the taming of serpents. For, as we know from 
ancient sources/ the Marsi of old prided them- 
selves on similar qualifications. 

7 Pliny, N. H., XXI. 13. 45. 78; XXVIII. 3. 6. 30; 
Gellius, XVI. ii ; Solinus, 2. 27. Cf. E. R. E., XI. 404. 



WHILE civil marriage was an old in- 
stitution among the Romans, the 
most ancient marriage rite of the 
patricians (confarreatio) involved the partici- 
pation of religious functionaries. Sacrifice and 
prayer were part of the ceremony, and there 
was a procession to the bridegroom's house 
in the course of which appeals were made 
to the gods of marriage. Even after the con- 
farreate marriage rite had become obsolete 
many of its characteristics survived in the 
form of wedding most frequently practiced 
by the Romans of the republican and imperial 

There was a ceremony of betrothal, which 
sometimes took place long before the wedding. 
On this occasion the prospective bridegroom 
gave his fiancee a ring which she wore on 
the third finger of her left hand. Sometimes 
guests were invited, and the bride-to-be received 

Great care was taken in the choice of the day 



for the wedding. Certain seasons, on account 
of the nature of the religious rites that fell 
within them, were regarded as distinctly inaus- 
picious, namely the month of May, 1 the first 
half of June; 2 the third week in February, 8 
the first half of March, and some other sin- 
gle days, including all Kalends, Nones, and 
Ides. Moreover festival days in general were 

The bride wore a veil over her head and was 
crowned with a wreath of flowers. In the later 
period it was usual for the bridegroom also 
to wear a garland. The ceremony included 
prayer, sacrifice, and the clasping of the right 
hands of bride and groom. In the rite of con- 
farreatio the bride formally renounced her own 
family name and took that of her husband, and 
they both partook of the sacred cake, libum 
farreum, so named because it was made of the 
coarse wheat called far. 

After the ceremony and the wedding feast, 
both of which generally took place in the bride's 

1 The festival of the Lemuria, connected with the cult 
of the dead, was held in this month; as also the rite of 
the Argei. 

2 The period of ancient rites at the temple of Vesta. 

3 The time of the Parentalia, when rites were celebrated 
at the tombs of deceased members of the family. 



father's house, there was a procession to the 
new home, in which not only the bridal party 
but the general public took part. On reaching 
her husband's house the bride smeared the 
door-posts with fat or oil and bound them with 
woolen fillets. She was then lifted over the 
threshold and taken into the atrium of the 
house, where she prayed for a happy married 
life and made her first offering to the gods of 
the household. 

Among the forms of marriage practiced by 
the Romans one was called usus. The consent 
of the contracting parties constituted the mar- 
riage, but it was only after a wife had lived 
with her husband for a year without absenting 
herself from his house for three successive 
nights that she passed, so far as her property 
was concerned, from her father's to her hus- 
band's control. 

The Church maintained the pagan contact 
of marriage with religion, and though in the 
process of adaptation the content of the service 
was materially changed, many of the old cus- 
toms were retained. Among the survivals may 
be mentioned the engagement-ring, still worn 
on the third finger of the left hand, the choice 
of the wedding-day, the bridal veil, the wed- 



ding feast and in some countries the wearing 
of garlands by both bride and groom ; the pro- 
cession to the bridegroom's house and the car- 
rying of the bride over the threshold. 

In regard to the giving of a ring it seems 
probable, in spite of Tertullian's 4 comment on 
the pagan character of the custom, that it was 
usual among most of the Christians even in his 
time (about A.D. 200), and it is quite clear 
that it was a universal practice from the fourth 

In the matter of the prohibition of certain 
seasons for weddings a feeling similar to that 
which actuated the Romans may be found in 
modern times in the avoidance of Twelfth 
Night, Walpurgis Night (when witches are 
abroad), and the month of May. 

While the ultimate origin of the veiling of 
the bride is uncertain, it is probably of re- 
ligious significance. Perhaps the belief was 
that on so important and critical an event as 
marriage every precaution must be taken to 
ward off evil influences. Whatever its origin, it 
has come down to us not only in connection 
with weddings but also in the ceremony of 
" taking the veil " by Christian nuns. Their 

4 De Idol, 16. 


dedication to a life of devotion is regarded as a 
mystical marriage with Christ. 5 

Tertullian denounced the wearing of gar- 
lands by bride and groom as a heathen practice, 
but none the less they were worn both in his day 
and afterwards. 6 The custom still obtains in 
parts of Germany and Switzerland, and has 
never been abandoned in the countries whose 
religion is under the control of the eastern 
Church. It is possible, however, that in this 
matter the early Christians may have been 
influenced by Jewish as well as by Roman 
precedent. Jewish practice may also have been 
contributory to the continuance of the wedding 
feast. Wedding-processions that reproduce 
many of the features of those of pagan times 
including the unrestrained raillery and uncen- 
sored jokes may be seen in some parts of 
Italy today. 7 

The custom of carrying the bride across the 
threshold has continued in parts of England 
and Scotland. 8 The more or less plausible 
suggestion that this is a survival of the primi- 

5 Duchesne, Christian Worship, 422. 

6 Sidonius Apollinaris, Carmen 2, Ad Anthem. 

7 McDaniel, Roman Private Life and Its Survivals, $o. 

8 Gregor, Folklore of North East of Scotland, 51; 
Trumbull, Threshold Covenant, 26. 



tive institution of "marriage by capture" 
has often been made, and this may be the right 
explanation. On the whole, however, it is 
likely that the act is part of a ritual intended 
to safeguard the reception and establishment of 
a stranger in the house. For the bride was a 
stranger to her husband's family and so in 
primitive psychology involved possibilities of 
peril to it. 

Of the Roman marriage by usus it has been 
suggested that the custom of hand-jesting, 
attested for a Dumfries county fair in the 
eighteenth century, was a survival. 9 At that 
fair it was customary for unmarried men or 
women to choose a companion for the year. 
At the end of that period, if they so decided, the 
marriage became permanent. If they preferred 
to separate, they could do so. In later times 
when this region fell under the control of the 
Abbot of Melrose, a priest was sometimes called 
in to confirm the marriage. Now this place was 
close to the old Roman camp at Castleoe'r, and 
it has been suggested that the kand-festing 
may have had its origin in the Roman usus, the 
participation of the priest being a Christian 
accretion. This is interesting but hardly 

9 Brand, Popular Antiquities, II. 88. 



probable. It is a parallel to, rather than a sur- 
vival of, the Roman custom. There are traces 
of hand-jesting in other parts of England and 
Scotland and it was common among the ancient 




PALES was a pastoral deity whose festival 
took place on the twenty-first of April. 
Whether the divinity was god or goddess 
is not known. The day of the festival has been 
celebrated both in ancient and in modern times 
as the anniversary of the founding of Rome. 
Fairly detailed accounts of both the rural and 
the urban Parilia have come down to us. 1 In 
the former we note the decoration of the sheep- 
folds with green branches, the making of fires 
of straw, laurel, and olive branches through 
which the flocks were driven and the shepherds 
leaped, an offering of milk and cakes to Pales, 
a meal which the worshippers shared with the 
deity, and a prayer asking forgiveness for any 
inadvertent offense and also for the safety, 
health, and increase of the flocks. The urban 
festival, as celebrated on the Palatine, had simi- 
lar features, especially notable being the purifi- 

1 Ovid, Fasti, IV. 72 iff. 



catory fires through which the people leaped. 
The fires were of straw but on them was thrown 
a mixture of the blood of the October horse 
sacrificed on the fifteenth of October and the 
ashes of the unborn calves of the Fordicidia 
(April 15). 

In the decoration of the sheep-folds we have 
a custom that has survived in the almost uni- 
versal practice of decoration at special seasons 
like harvest and Christmas. 2 Fowler's 3 sug- 
gestion that the intention was to influence the 
powers of vegetation is hardly applicable to the 
Parilia. He is, however, right in pointing out 4 
that the prayer and all its concomitant features 
as described by Ovid survive in the prayer of 
the peasant of the Roman Campagna today: 
the pagan shepherd turned to the east, wet his 
hands with dew, and addressed to Pales the 
supplication the content of which has been in- 
dicated above; the modern shepherd, although 
he addresses the Madonna instead of Pales, 
prays for substantially the same things, and 
like his pagan prototype turns to the east and 
uses holy water. 

2 Mannhardt, Antike Wald- und Feld-kulte, 310. 

3 R. F., 81. 

4 Op. dt., 82. 



Whether there is still another survival of 
the Parilia in St. George's Day as celebrated by 
the herdsmen of eastern Europe is doubtful. 
To be sure, the Esthonians are accustomed to 
drive their cattle to pasture for the first time on 
St. George's Day (April 23), and the same is 
true of Ruthenians, Bulgarians, and natives of 
Little Russia. 5 But in all probability this prac- 
tice is a survival of an ancient custom similar 
to the Parilia rather than a relic of the Parilia 


THE Lupercalia, which fell on the fifteenth of 
February, was one of the most ancient festivals 
in Rome. With what divinity it was originally 
associated is uncertain. Ovid, 6 it is true, refers 
to a connection with the rustic god Faunus, but 
this may have been a later development. The 
celebration took place at the foot of the Pala- 
tine Hill, the site of the earliest Roman settle- 
ment, and was characterized by certain nota- 
ble features. The ceremonies began with a 
sacrifice of goats and a dog and an offering of 

5 Frazer, Golden Bough, II. 330 ff. This work is re- 
ferred to as G. B., and citations are from the third edition, 
unless otherwise stated. 

Fasti, II. 268; V. 101. 



sacred cakes furnished by the Vestals. Then 
two youths, the leaders of two groups of 
Luperci (as the priests of the rite were called), 
had their foreheads smeared with the knife that 
had been used in the sacrifice and then wiped 
off with wool dipped in 'milk, whereupon they 
were expected to laugh. Next the two bands 
of Luperci, led by the youths just mentioned, 
naked except for goatskins about their loins, 
ran around the boundaries of the Palatine, and 
as they ran they struck with strips cut from 
the hides of the victims all the women who came 
in their way. 

Into the explanation of the different features 
of the festival it is not necessary to enter here. 
No entirely satisfactory interpretation of all 
parts of the ceremony has ever been offered, 
although many theories have been advanced. 7 
The circumambulation of the Palatine Hill by 
the two companies of runners seems to indicate 
a ritual purification of the original site of the 
city. The striking of the women with the strips 
of hide shows that at some time or other the 
idea of fertilization became an important part 
of the ceremonial complex. 

7 The most important discussions are listed by Frazer 
in his Fasti of Ovid, VoL II. p. 328. 



It was one of the most popular of all the 
pagan festivals, and it was on its celebration on 
the fifteenth of February in 44 B.C., a month 
before his assassination, that Julius Caesar was 
offered a crown by Antony. It lasted longer 
than any other Roman festival. It was cele- 
brated long after Christianity had been es- 
tablished and was only suppressed by Pope 
Gelasius I in A.D. 494. 

It has often been said 8 that when Pope 
Gelasius suppressed the Lupercalia, he insti- 
tuted the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, 
celebrated on the second of February and 
called Candlemas from the candles and tapers 
carried in the procession. But this is a mis- 
take. The Christian festival appears to be of 
other than Roman origin, and it seems clear 
that it was not introduced into Rome till about 
A.D. 700. 9 Nevertheless there is a connection 
between the Lupercalia and Candlemas. A 
festival stressing purification as the latter did 
and also occurring in February, the month long 
associated through the Lupercalia with the idea 
of purification, made a double appeal to the 

8 Fowler, ,R. F., 321; Frazer, Fasti of Ovid, Vol. II. 
p, 328. 

9 Usener, Weihnachtsfest, 318; Barns in E. R. E. f 
III. 190. 



people and so found ready acceptance among 
them. Moreover the relation to women, which 
is so notable a feature of the pagan festival, has 
appeared also in some modern celebrations of 
Candlemas. In the north of England it used to 
be called " The Wives' Feast Day/ 7 

An interesting analogue to the striking of the 
women by the Luperci is found in some festivals 
of modern Europe. For example in the Upper 
Palatinate the bride is struck with willow or 
birch twigs as she walks up from the church 
door to the place where the marriage service 
is to be read. 10 

It is probable also that the Lupercalia was 
one of the festivals that contributed something 
to that spirit of license that has always charac- 
terized the mediaeval and modern Carnival. 11 
That the latter does not go back to any one 
Roman festival seems likely. It is of mixed 
origin. And while, as will be seen later, the 
Saturnalia was an important influence in its 
development, the Lupercalia and possibly other 
festivals also played their part in it. 

1 Hartland, Primitive Paternity, I. 105. 
n See pp. 67 ff. 




ON THE nineteenth of April, the day 
of the festival of Ceres (Cerealia), 
foxes were let loose in the Circus 
Maximus with burning brands tied to their 
brushes. The significance of this practice is 
uncertain. Ceres 1 was an old Latin deity of 
the productive powers of the earth but was 
afterwards identified with the Greek Demeter. 
Whether the foxes belong to the original festi- 
val or are due to Greek influence it is not possi- 
ble to say. Their reddish color is perhaps an 
element in the question and has been connected 
by Preller 2 with the rust to which the grain 
is subject at this time of year and by Wis- 
sowa 8 with the fiery heat of the sun. That the 
ceremony had something to do with the pros- 
perity of the crops seems certain. 

1 The name Ceres is probably derived from the root 
of creare. 

12 Preller- Jordan, Rom. Myth,, II. 43. 
s R. u. K., 197. 



There are some apparent survivals of the 
practice. Brand 4 quotes a statement from an 
earlier writer 5 to the effect that in Elgin and the 
shire of Murray farmers carry burning torches 
around their crops in the middle of June " in 
memory of the Cerealia." A similar custom 
prevailed in Northumberland during the first 
half of the nineteenth century, when fire-brands 
used to be carried about the fields on the night 
of the twenty-ninth of June. 

For the connection of Ceres with the festival 
of the Ambarvalia, see under Mars, page 48. 


ROBIGUS was the spirit of mildew, whose hos- 
tility to the growing crops it was the purpose 
of the festival on the twenty-fifth of April 
(Robigalia) to avert. Whether this divinity 
was masculine (Robigus) or feminine (Robigo) 
has never been definitely ascertained. We 
have, however, data in regard to the festival. 
A procession was organized in Rome which, 
leaving the city by the Porta Flaminia, crossed 
the Milvian Bridge and proceeded to a grove of 

4 Op, dt. } I. 310. 

5 Shaw in Appendix II to Pennant's Tour. 

6 Ovid, Fasti, IV. 901 ff. 



Robigus at the fifth milestone on the Via 
Claudia. There the exta of a dog and sheep, 
which had been killed in the city in the morn- 
ing, were offered to the divinity. This mile- 
stone was doubtless the limit of Roman terri- 
tory when the ceremony was first instituted, 
and the benefit of procession, prayer, and sacri- 
fice was supposed to extend to all the crops 
within the boundaries. 

Connected with the Robigalia but distinct 
from it was another ceremony consisting of a 
sacrifice of red puppies. Unlike the Robigalia 
this was a movable festival. Moreover, it took 
place not on the Via Claudia but near one of 
the city gates, which indeed derived its name 
(Porta Catularia) from the ceremony. The 
color of the dogs sacrificed on this occasion has 
been interpreted in the same way as that of the 
foxes at the Cerealia. 7 

Of this ancient ceremony we have record of 
an interesting survival in the Litania Maior, or 
Romana, of the Catholic Church on St. Mark's 
Day, the very day of the Roman Robigalia 
(April 2s). 8 Like the pagan ceremony this in- 

7 See above, p. 42. 

8 Duchesne, op. tit., 288; Mershman In Catholic Ency- 
clopaedia, IX. 287; Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome, 



eluded a procession and prayers. The pro- 
cession, starting from San Lorenzo in Lucina, 
held a station at San Valentino outside the 
Walls and another at the Milvian Bridge. 
Then, instead of proceeding along the Via 
Claudia as the old Roman procession had done, 
it turned to the left and after stopping at a 
station of the Holy Cross went on to St. Peter's 
Basilica. 9 This litany was later discontinued 
but its purpose was obviously the same as that 
of the pagan ceremony, namely, to gain the 
blessing of heaven for the crops. 


FLORA was one of the divinities of the old 
Roman system. Her function, as her name in- 
dicates, manifested itself in blossom. Of her 
antiquity we have adequate evidence in the 
well-attested existence of a flamen attached to 
her service (flamen Floralis}. Possibly she 
was ultimately of Sabine origin and was a repre- 
sentative of the Sabine element in early Roman 
religion. The month in the Sabine calendar 
that corresponds to July is thought to derive its 

9 The ceremony is described in the Liber Pontificalis, 
in the life of Leo III (795-816). 

10 Cf. Varro, L. L., VII. 45. 



name from her. Moreover, the oldest temple 
of Flora of which we have record was in the 
Sabine quarter of the city on the Quirinal Hill. 11 
The fact that the festival is not designated in 
capital letters on the stone calendars, as is cus- 
tomary in the case of the oldest festivals, may 
be due to its having been originally a movable 
feast. We are told that games were first cele- 
brated in her honor about 238 B.C. 13 This was 
done in accordance with an oracle of the Sibyl- 
line Books which had been consulted on the 
occasion of a famine. We know that a temple 
was dedicated to her in 238 and that the day 
of dedication was April 2 8. 13 It is possible that 
this was the day of the old Italic festival al- 
though the games, especially after they became 
annual in 173 B.C., contained many Greek fea- 
tures, some of which were due to the points 
of contact between the cults of Flora and 

The festival was notorious for its license. 
Among other things it was one of the feast-days 
of the prostitutes of the city. Moreover, among 
the gifts distributed were medallions whose ob- 

11 Cf. Steuding in Roscher's Lexikon, under Flora. 

1 2 This is Pliny's date, N. #., XVHI. 29. 3- 286; 
Velleius I. 14 gives 241 B.C. 

13 Cf. Aust, De aedibus sacris pop, Rom., 17. 



scene content obviously pertained to the idea of 
fertilization. Beans and lupines were also scat- 
tered among the populace and it seems likely 
that these were not merely largesses of food. 
They were symbols of fertility, 14 and to this 
practice we have something analogous in our 
custom of throwing rice at weddings. It can 
hardly be said, however, that the latter is a sur- 
vival of the former. As Mannhardt 15 and 
Frazer 16 have shown, customs of this kind have 
prevailed among many peoples and the data 
seem to indicate that our practice is only a par- 
allel. The same is true of the relation to the 
Floralia of some of the features of the Gypsy 
spring festival on St. George's Day (April 23) 
" Green George " as he is called as well as 
some of the characteristics of May-day festivi- 
ties. Such resemblances as exist between 
these ancient and modern celebrations should 
in all likelihood be attributed to the general 
similarity to be found among many festivals 
celebrated by different peoples at this time 
of year. 

^ Cf. Mannhardt, Kind. u. Korn, 351 ff. 

15 Loc. cit. 

is G. B., passim. 




THE Ambarvalia was celebrated at the end of 
May (about the twenty-ninth), and consisted 
chiefly of a procession in which the victims of 
the threefold sacrifice pig, sheep, and bull 
were driven thrice around the fields. It was 
one of several ceremonies of purification of the 
same type. Another was the Amburbium ( Feb- 
ruary 2 ) , in which the procession passed around 
the sacred boundary of the city; in another the 
victims were driven around an assembly of 
citizens on the Campus Martius; in another 
around the bounds of a district (pagus} ; and 
in another around a single farm. The lus- 
tration festival hefd by the Fratres Arvales in 
May has not been specifically included in the 
list because there is a strong probability of its 
being identical with the Ambarvalia. 17 Origi- 
nally the triple sacrifice was to Mars, 18 although 
by Augustus 5 time it was made to Ceres 19 and 
the extant records of the Arval Brothers refer 
to the Dea Dia as the divinity honored. A long 

17 Mommsen, Henzen, Jordan and Wissowa are of this 
opinion. Fowler inclines to it but does not think that 
Marquardt's doubts are to be wholly disregarded. 

is Cf. Cato, De agric., 141. 

18 Virgil, Georgics, I. 338 ff. 



inscription in the Umbrian dialect describes 
similar ceremonies at the city of Iguvium (now 
Gubbio), with circumambulating processions 
and sacrifice of victims. 20 

The purpose of the Ambarvalia was to gain 
the favor of the gods for the growing crops, and 
the festival has survived down to our own time. 
In Italy on the Rogation days before Ascension 
priests lead their parishioners around the fields 
and with the Litania Minor 21 invoke the divine 
blessing on their households and their crops. 
Some modifications are of course inevitable, 
but there is a striking similarity between the 
content of the Christian and the pagan prayer. 
Trede, who published his work in 1889, states 
that he has seen in southern Italy processions 
of the Ambarvalia type in which even animals 
(lambs and calves) appeared. 22 These, vowed 
to the Saint in whose honor the procession was 
held, were afterwards sold, the money being 
used for the benefit of the sanctuary. Among 
the places which Trede mentions as the scene 
of such a ceremony are San Giorgio at the foot 
of Vesuvius, where two fat calves, adorned 

20 Cf . Buck, A Grammar of Oscan and Umbrian, 260 ff. 
121 Mershman in Catholic Encyclopaedia, IX. 287. 
22 Op. tit., II. 43. 



with ribbons and garlands, formed part of the 
procession; Pagani (not far from Pompeii), 
where the offering, which was made to the 
Madonna, consisted of fowls; and villages in 
Calabria where goats, pigs, and bullocks, 
decked like the animals in the Roman Ambar- 
valia, were led to the sanctuary of the local 
Saint. For the town of Angri, in the neigh- 
borhood of Pompeii, an interesting custom is 
reported. For there, if by chance drought oc- 
curred in summer or excessive rain in winter, 
a statue of St. John the Baptist was carried 
about the fields in the belief that he would re- 
store normal conditions. This ceremony was 
followed by a festive meal in which Trede sees 
a survival of the banquet mentioned by Tibul- 
lus' 23 in his account of a purification of the fields 
in the time of Augustus. There is a resem- 
blance, but it is not at all certain that the festi- 
val referred to by Tibullus was the Ambarvalia. 
It may have been the Feriae Sementivae held 
late in January. 24 

Fowler, writing in i&gg? 5 describes a similar 
ceremony as still observed in some parishes in 
England on one of the three days before Ascen- 
ts IL 1.21-30. 

24 Cf. K. F. Smith, Elegies of Tibullus, 391. 
|2B R. F., 127, Cf. also Brand, op. tit., I. 202. 



sion Day. The minister, the church officials, 
and parishioners pass in procession around the 
boundaries of the parish and pray for a bless- 
ing on the products of the farms and for the 
safety of the parish. This was called " beating 
the bounds." Fowler mentions specifically the 
celebration of this ceremony at Oxford, al- 
though from his account the practice there 
seems to be somewhat in decline. Apparently 
the lustration procession that used to be held 
at Charlton-on-Otmoor near Oxford, on May- 
day, has been given up. But till comparatively 
recent times it was the practice there to carry 
in procession through the parish a cross deco- 
rated with flowers. Similar processions in 
which tlie cross is carried are reported for 
Holland and other parts of the Continent. 

Traces of this old custom are found in 
America also. German Lutherans living in the 
neighborhood of Fox Lake in southern Wiscon- 
sin used to celebrate a sort of Ambarvalia. 26 
Farmers and their wives walked around the 
boundaries of their lands, sprinkling salt and 
offering prayers for the growing crops. This 
was on Ascension Day in May. Although the 

26 I am indebted to Miss Ann Gallagher, a student at 
the University of Chicago, for this example. 


record furnished refers to a period some twenty- 
five years ago, it is possible that the custom still 
obtains in some places. The Catholics in the 
neighborhood held processions of the same kind, 
the prayers used being Pater Noster and Ave 

Of the ceremony at the Umbrian city of 
Iguvium, described in the famous inscription 
of the Iguvine Tables, there may be traces in 
the processional rite celebrated annually on 
May 15 in the town of Gubbio, which now oc- 
cupies this site. The connection, however, has 
never been clearly demonstrated. For while 
a procession forms the dominating feature of 
both ceremonies, there is no similarity of pur- 
pose. The ancient ceremony was for the lus- 
tration of the people and the place; the modern 
is chiefly in honor of S. Ubaldo, whose mon- 
astery on the hill above the town is the objec- 
tive of the procession of the Ceri which passes 
through the streets. Nor can we be sure that 
the word Ceri pedestals surmounted by fig- 
ures of Saints is related to Cerf us Martius 
who is mentioned as a local deity in the ancient 
inscription. 27 

27 Bower, The Elevation and Procession of the Ceri; 
McCracken, Gubbio, Past and Present. 



CONSUS (from condere, to store) was the god 
of harvest. Tertullian 28 tells us that there was 
a sacrifice to him on the seventh of July at his 
underground altar in the Circus Maximus. 
From the stone calendars and other sources 
we know that a festival in his honor, the Con- 
sualia, was celebrated on the twenty-first of 
August and on the fifteenth of December. 
There was also another ceremony that was 
connected with his worship, namely, the Opi- 
consivia on the twenty-fifth of August. 

The fact that the sacrifice to Consus falls on 
the same day as the Festival of Handmaids 
(Feriae Ancillarum), the seventh of July, may 
be a coincidence without significance. It is 
possible, however, that there is a connection 
between the two, and that the bizarre antics of 
the maids were one form of harvest festivities. 
On this day 29 the slave girls (ancillae) sacri- 
ficed beneath a wild fig-tree (caprificus), 
dressed themselves in their mistresses' clothes, 
and ran about striking one another with 
branches and pelting each other with stones. 

28 De spectaculis, 5. 

29 The day was called Nonae Caprotinae. 



Moreover, they railed with unbridled license 
at any one passing by. It was maids' day out 
in the widest sense of the term. It is in their 
attitude toward persons passing by that Fow- 
ler 30 sees a possible connection between their 
festival and harvest celebrations. He cites as 
a parallel the rough treatment accorded in many 
parts of Europe to strangers appearing in the 
fields at harvest-time, some of whom are tied 
up in straw and only released on paying ran- 
som, while others are made to submit to a 
ducking. He makes special reference to the 
survival of this custom in Derbyshire where 
the stranger in the field is still made " to pay 
his footing." 

The Consualia celebrated on the twenty-first 
of August was a harvest-home festival. There 
were horse-races and mule-races, and the tra- 
dition that it was on the occasion of this festi- 
val that the rape of the Sabine women took 
place, in its implication of the presence of 
strangers from other communities, furnishes 
some indication of the scale of the celebration. 
The legend points also to sexual license as one 
of the characteristics of harvest celebrations. 
so R. p., 177- 




ONE other ceremony apparently connected 
with the harvest should be mentioned. This 
was the annual sacrifice of a horse on the fif- 
teenth of October. On that day there was a 
race of two-horse chariots on the Campus Mar- 
tius, and after the race the near horse of the 
winning team was sacrificed to Mars at his 
ancient altar on the Campus. The head of the 
horse was cut off and, after being adorned with 
cakes, was fought for by the inhabitants of two 
of the regions of Rome, the Sacred Way and 
the Subura. If the former were victorious they 
fastened it up on the Regia in the Forum; if 
the latter won, they fixed it on a tower 31 in 
their part of the town. The horse's tail also 
was cut off and taken to the Regia where the 
blood from it dripped on the hearth. Although 
the significance of these parts of the ceremony 
has been the subject of much discussion, it 
seems probable that they involve the familiar 
religious idea of the continuance of fertility 
from year to year and so tend to confirm the 
classification of the rite as a harvest festival. 
The decoration of the horse's head with cakes 

31 Turns Mamilia. 



inevitably recalls the similar adornment of the 
horses and mules at the Consualia and other 
agricultural celebrations. And there is also the 
statement of Paulus 32 that the rite was " on 
account of the harvest." Fundamentally this 
theory rests on the assumption that the cere- 
mony goes back to a time when Mars was 
thought of as a vegetation-spirit and had not 
yet become specialized in men's minds as a god 
of war. Wissowa 33 rejects this explanation, 
and denying any connection of the rite with 
the harvest contends that from the beginning 
it was celebrated in honor of Mars as war-god 
and marked the conclusion of the year's cam- 
paigns. In his opinion the horse was a war- 
horse. His arguments, however, are not con- 

At present it is the fashion among students 
of comparative religion to disparage the " corn- 
spirit " which explained so much to the scholars 
of the last generation. Probably the theory was 
applied with too little discrimination. But it 
is in the main sound, and in all likelihood the 
explanation of the October horse is to be found 

32 Page 277 (edition of Thewrewk de Ponor), ob jrugum 

33 R, n. K. } 143. 



Of this mid-October rite it is not possible to 
mention any specific survival in modern times. 
But it is not without pertinence to draw atten- 
tion to the October festival held by the peasants 
of the Roman Campagna today. Moreover, the 
examples cited by Mannliardt 34 and Frazer 35 
of horses and other animals appearing as the 
corn-spirit in modern cultures, although not 
survivals of the Roman rite, none the less find 
their ultimate origin in a class of ancient reli- 
gious ideas of which the ceremony of the Octo- 
ber horse was one local manifestation. In the 
same way the fundamental idea involved in 
the fight for the horse's head between the men 
of the Sacred Way and those of the Subura still 
persists in such contests as Frazer 36 enumer- 
ates. And to the fastening of the head on a 
building many parallels are given by Mann- 
hardt, 37 Frazer, 38 and Fowler: 39 a sheaf of 
grain, a bunch of flowers, or the effigy of some 
animal, in some cases that of a horse. 

84 Mythologische Forschungen, 156 ff. 

35 G. B. f VII. 292 ff. 

86 Op. dt. t VII. 75 ff. 

s? A. W.F.,*i4f. 

ss Op. cit., VIII. 44. 

39 R. p., 246. 




THE festival of Saturn fell on December 17, 
but its popular celebration lasted for seven 
days. It began as a country festival in the time 
when agriculture was one of the chief activities 
of the Romans, but it soon came to be cele- 
brated in urban centers also. It was a period 
of indulgence in eating, drinking, and gambling, 
and during these seven days city officials con- 
doned conduct that they would not have toler- 
ated at any other season. One feature of the 
occasion was the license allowed to slaves, who 
were permitted to treat their masters as if they 
were their social equals. 40 Frequently indeed 
masters and slaves changed places and the lat- 
ter were waited on by the former. Another fea- 
ture of the celebration was the exchange of 
gifts, such as candles (cerei) which are sup- 
posed to have symbolized the increasing power 
of the sunlight after the winter solstice, 41 and 
little puppets of paste or earthenware (sigil- 
laria) , the exact significance of which is obscure. 
It was a season of hilarity and good-will, and 

40 Accius, quoted by Macrobius, Sat., I. 7. 37; Horace, 
Sat., II. 7- 5- 

41 Fowler, R. F.> 272. 



the universal greeting was " Bona Saturnalia! " 
A " king " was chosen by lot, who would bid 
one of his subjects dance, another sing, another 
carry a flute-girl on his back and so forth. 42 
In this play-king the Romans ridiculed royalty. 
Frazer's 43 attempt to reconstruct the king 
of the Roman Saturnalia on the basis of the 
martyrdom of St. Dasius at Durostolum on the 
Danube in A.D. 303 is ingenious but untenable. 
The story of Dasius is told in a Greek manu- 
script in the Bibliotheque Nationale. 44 Ac- 
cording to this source the Roman soldiers at 
Durostolum were in the habit of celebrating the 
Saturnalia with a human sacrifice. Thirty days 
before the festival they chose by lot a handsome 
youth whom they arrayed as king and who, as 
the representative of good king Saturn, was at- 
tended by a brilliant escort and given full li- 
cense to indulge in any pleasure. But on the 
thirtieth day he was obliged to kill himself on 
the altar of the god Saturn whom he was per- 
sonating. In 303 the lot fell to a Christian sol- 

42 Tacitus, Ann., XIII. 15, where Nero was "king" and 
seized the opportunity to humiliate Britannicus ; also Seneca, 
Apoc.y 8 and Ep., 47. 14; Epictetus, Diss., I. 25. 8; and 
Lucian, Saturn., 4. 

43 G. B., II. 310 f.; IX. 310 ff. 

44 Cf. Cumont, Revue de Philologie, XXI, 143 ff. (1897). 



dier, Dasius, who, refusing to play a part that 
involved a month of immorality, was beheaded 
on the twentieth of November. 45 Frazer sees 
in this practice at Durostolum a survival of the 
original form of the festival and regards the 
innocuous king of the Saturnalia, of whom Ro- 
man writers speak, as merely a faint adumbra- 
tion of a personage of much more tragic ex- 
perience. But the theory will not hold. For 
while there seems no adequate reason for 
doubting, as Wissowa 46 does, the historicity 
of the Dasius story, its features (especially the 
human sacrifice) strongly suggest the influence 
of Oriental rites. 47 It seems certain, indeed, 
that the king of the festival celebrated at 
Durostolum was some one quite other than the 
king of the Roman Saturnalia, who was never 
anything more than a merry-making master of 

To be sure the festival suffered the usual 
legendary accretions. From being the holiday 
of country folk in a slack season of the year, 
it came to be thought of as symbolic of the 

45 Reinach, Cultes, Mythes et, Religions, I. 332 ff. 

46 In Roscher, Lexikon, IV. 440, and R. u. K., 207. 

47 Reinach, op. dt. f 334 ff.; Fowler, The Religiow Ex- 
perience of the Roman People (referred to in this book as 
jR. .), 112; Nilsson in Pauly -Wissowa, Real-Encyclopadie, 
II A. 208. 



golden age when Saturn had been king of 
Latium, when all men were equal, when there 
was no labor, and when life was a continual 
round of pleasure. And in this interpretation 
of it the king of the revels personified old King 
Saturn. But a satisfactory analysis of the dif- 
ferent elements in the festival has never been 
made. It is known that it was subjected to 
Greek influence but it is difficult to distinguish 
precisely between original and acquired char- 
acteristics. Moreover, in any study of it that 
is undertaken it must be remembered that 
many peoples have had and in some cases still 
have a similar festival at this time of year. 
And the similarity of the conditions that occa- 
sion the festival whether it be the leisure 
period of the farmer's year or the recognition 
of the new solar year that begins after the win- 
ter solstice, or both may easily result in the 
independent development in different communi- 
ties of analogous forms of celebration. 

There are interesting survivals of the Satur- 
nalia in some of the customs of our Christmas 
and New Year's holidays, in the. Carnival, and 
in the festivities of Shrove Tuesday. These 
will now be discussed under their respective 



THE extremists who have said that Christmas 
was intended to replace the Saturnalia have 
vastly overstated the case. Nor is it of any 
importance that Epiphanius, 48 the bishop of 
Salamis in Cyprus in the fourth century, places 
the Saturnalia on the twenty-fifth of December. 
This is not the only error in the list of dates in 
which it occurs. Without doubt, however, 
many of the customs of the Saturnalia were 
transferred to Christmas. Although the dates 
did not exactly coincide, for the Saturnalia 
proper fell on the seventeenth of December, the 
time of year was practically the same, and it has 
already been pointed out how frequently festi- 
vals of the merry-making type occur among 
various peoples at this season. Fowler, men- 
tioning the good-will that so generally charac- 
terizes these celebrations, raises the question 
whether this was one of the reasons why Christ- 
mas was put at the winter solstice. 49 Possibly, 
as has also been suggested, 50 the postpone- 
ment of the festivities from the date of the 

48 Panar., 51. 

49 R. F., 271, note. He cites John Chrysostom III. 4976 
and Usener, Religions geschichtliche Untersuchungen, 217. 

eo But cf. Duchesne, Christian Worship, 261. 



Saturnalia to Christmas week was in part at 
least caused by the institution of the Advent 
fast covering the period of the four Sundays 
before Christmas. 

Certainly many of the customs of the Christ- 
mas season go back to the Roman festival. In 
it lies the origin of the excessive eating and 
drinking, the plethora of sweets, the playing 
of games, and the exchange of gifts. Nor can 
we fail to connect our custom of burning candles 
with the candles (cerei) that were so conspicu- 
ous a part of the Saturnalia. Moreover, our 
Christmas holidays, like the Roman festival, 
are approximately a week. In one part of Eng- 
land at least (North Staffordshire) the farm- 
servants' annual holiday extends from Christ- 
mas to New Year. Nor is this the only point 
of resemblance to pagan times afforded by the 
Staffordshire holiday. For the license allowed 
by masters during its continuance reminds one 
of the liberties allowed to slaves during the 
Saturnalia. And there are English hotels at 
the present time where that inversion of role 
that was one of the features of the Roman fes- 
tival is practiced at Christmas, and servants 
and guests change places. 

In mediaeval times there were still other sur- 



vivals, and the king of the Saturnalia is obvi- 
ously the prototype not only of the Abbot of 
Unreason who at one time presided over the 
Christmas revels in Scotland, but also of the 
Lord of Misrule in England and the Abbe de 
Liesse in Lille. This mock dignitary had other 
titles. In some places (Rouen and Evreux) he 
was called Abbas Conardorum; elsewhere he 
was known as Rex Stultorum, Facetiarum 
Princeps, Abbas luvenum, Papa Fatuorum, and 
L'Abb6 des Foux. These masters of the revels 
are all connected with the Feast of Fools 
(Festum Fatuorum) of the mediaeval church, 
and they masqueraded in clerical vestments. 
Du Tilliot, 51 in tracing these customs back to 
the Saturnalia, points out that not only during 
the celebration of Christmas but through the 
Feast of Fools or Festum Kalendarum (Janu- 
ary i), as it was sometimes called, minor clerics 
took the place of the superior clergy. The lat- 
ter festival was indeed notable both for inver- 
sion of role and for the unbridled conduct of 
the young priests, who danced in the church, 
sang obscene songs, played dice during the cele- 
bration of the mass, and took part in the theater 

51 In his book Mimoires a I'histoire de la Fete des Foux. 
Cf. also Du Cange, Glossarium, under Kalendae; and Barns 
in Hastings, E. R. E., I. 9. 

[6 4 ] 


in performances that were disgraced by wanton 
gestures and immoral lines. 

We hear also of the Boy-Bishop (Episcopus 
Puerorum), whose authority lasted from St. 
Nicholas' day (December 6) till Childermas 
(December 28) and whose tradition (as well 
as that of the Bishop of Unreason) still survives 
to a certain extent in Santa Clans. Apparently 
the compromise made by the early Church in 
adapting the customs of the Saturnalia to 
Christian practice had little or no effect in 
checking the license of the festival. This con- 
tinued through the whole Christmas festival 
and sometimes lasted till the day of Epiphany 
(January 6). We find many criticisms by 
churchmen or councils. In England Henry 
VIII issued a proclamation in 1542, abolishing 
the revels, but Mary restored them in 1554. 
The English mummers are said to have worn 
caps of brown paper, shaped like a miter, and 
these are traced back either to the Boy Bishops 
or the Abbots of Misrule. Readers of Sir 
Walter Scott's novel The Abbott will re- 
member the " Right Reverend Abbott of Un- 

52 Barns, loc. dt.> refers to the historical note in this 



There is nothing to be said in support of the 
theory which Frazer, 53 citing Cumont's 54 ac- 
count of the Dasius story and Wendland's 55 
article, once advanced: namely, that the Satur- 
nalia had originally been celebrated in the 
spring; that this date was adhered to in some 
of the outlying parts of the Empire, as at Jeru- 
salem in the time of Pontius Pilate; and that 
the treatment to which Jesus was subjected 
the robe, the crown, the scepter, the mock hom- 
age, and the tragic death finds its explanation 
in the assumption that he was the king of the 
Saturnalia as celebrated by the Roman garri- 
son in Jerusalem that year. The improbability 
of such a theory has been pointed out 66 and 
the objections to it need not be given in detail 
here. Frazer 57 himself has practically with- 
drawn it in his third edition. But unlikely 
as the theory as a whole is, it brings out one 
point which deserves careful consideration, and 
that is the similarity of the mockery of Jesus 
to that of a king of the Saturnalia. It is in- 

5 3 G. B., 2d ed., III. 186 f . 

54 In Revue de Philologie, cited above. 

65 " Jesus als Saturnalien-konig," Hermes, XXXIII, 
175 (1898). 

66 Andrew Lang in Magic and Religion, 79 ff. 
<" G. B. t IX. 412 ff. 



deed probable that the Roman soldiers were 
influenced in their conduct by their recollec- 
tion of the practices of the Saturnalia in which 
they had often taken part. Ridicule of this 
kind was probably not uncommon. At any rate 
Wendland in the article already referred to has 
commented on the resemblance between the 
mockery of Jesus and that to which the Jewish 
king, Agrippa I, was subjected by the Alexan- 
drians in A.D. 38. 58 Moreover, the treatment of 
Jesus seems to have followed lines already fa- 
miliar to the people through the mimes pro- 
duced at the Saturnalia as well as at other sea- 
sons. For mockery of the burlesque king as 
well as of the Jew was common in the mimes 
of the period. 


BUT survivals of the Saturnalia are not con- 
fined to Christmas festivities. In spite of the 
difference in time of year they are found also 
in the Carnival as celebrated in Catholic 
countries today. The Abbe de Liesse of Lille, 
whose relation to the king of the Saturnalia has 
been indicated, presided at games celebrated at 
Arras and neighboring towns during the Car- 

58 Reich, in N. Jahrb. /. klass. Altert., XIII, 730 (1904). 



nival. Moreover, many of the special features 
of the Saturnalia recur in the merry-making of 
the Carnival. The confetti used so lavishly are 
a relic of the grains of wheat or barley which 
to the Romans represented the hope of a year 
of abundance, The pointed " fooFs cap " of 
the Carnival mummer reproduces the liberty 
cap which in accordance with the custom of in- 
verted roles slaves were allowed to wear during 
the pagan holiday. And the spirit of untram- 
meled mockery, hilarity, jesting, and mischief, 
so characteristic of the Carnival, is an inherit- 
ance from the Roman festival. 


THE festivities of Shrove Tuesday, the last day 
of the Carnival, as organized by the primitive 
Church were notably of the Saturnalian type. 
Many examples indicating the degree of license 
are recorded. 59 It has been suggested 60 that 
the Holly-boy and Ivy-girl, as they appear in 
the folklore of Kent, 61 are connected with the 

59 Cf. Dekker, Seven Deadly Sinnes of London (1606) ; 
Brand, op. dt. f I. 63 ff. 

E. R, &., XL 479- 

61 Brand, op. cit., I. 68, quotes a description of the 
burning of a Holly-boy and Ivy-girl on the Tuesday before 
Shrove Tuesday In 1779. 



German Fastnachtsmann or Prinz Karneval 
and so ultimately with the king of the Satur- 
nalia. This connection, however, has never 
been adequately established. We may also 
consider the possibility of affinity between the 
Holly-boy and Ivy-girl of Kent and the Roman 
divinities, Liber and Libera, whose festival 
(Liberalia) was celebrated on the seventeenth 
of March. On this day old women sat in the 
streets of Rome, their heads decked with ivy, 
and sold cakes (liba) of oil and honey. 62 That 
the pancakes still so commonly eaten in Eng- 
land on Shrove Tuesday sometimes called 
" Pancake Tuesday " go back to the cakes 
of the Roman Liberalia has been suggested but 
never satisfactorily demonstrated. 

For the possibility of other Roman festivals 
having influenced the Carnival, see under 
Lupercalia, p. 41. 

62 Ovid, Fasti, III, 725 ff.; Varro, L. L., VI. 14. 



KERS of ancient Italy had their spir- 
its. We hear specifically of the god 
of the river Clitumnus in Umbria, and 
also of one for the Numicus, a stream in Latium, 
for the Sebethus * near Naples, and for the Po. 
Curiously enough there is no specific reference 
to a god of the Tiber in the early period, but 
possibly the divinity of this river, as Mommsen 
suggests, is concealed under the name of Vol- 
turnus, from volvere, with reference to its roll- 
ing waters. The latter was one of the indige- 
nous gods of Rome, of whose flamen we have 
record and whose festival, the Volturnalia, is 
set down in the old calendar for the twenty- 
seventh of August. The name Tiberinus 
does not appear in the cult till much later. 
But these are only a few examples of 
what must have been a widespread religious 
practice. We may safely assume that every 

i C. I. L., X. 1480. 



river in ancient Italy was believed to have its 

This being the case, it is obvious that the 
building of a bridge always involved the fear of 
offending the tutelary spirit of the stream and 
necessitated the undertaking of ceremonies cal- 
culated to placate his anger. In many cases the 
ceremony doubtless took the form of a sacrifice. 
There may have been such a sacrifice when the 
Pons Sublicius, the oldest of the bridges across 
the Tiber, was built. And it has been suggested 
that the ceremony of the Argei, in which straw 
puppets were thrown from the bridge into the 
river, finds its ultimate explanation in an origi- 
nal sacrifice of human beings offered to the god 
of the river in expiation of the nullification or 
at least the infringement of his divinity in 
building a bridge over his waters. 2 This, how- 
ever, is only a suggestion and the ceremony of 
the Argei presents so many difficulties of inter- 
pretation that definite statements in regard to 
it are hazardous in the extreme. But it is in 
connection with propitiatory ceremonies of 
some sort that we look for the explanation of 
the term pontifex (from pons, bridge, and facia, 
make) applied to the members of the ancient 

2 Cf. G. A. Frank Knight in Hastings, E. R. E., II. 848. 



college of priests that was most closely associ- 
ated with the rites of the oldest order of Roman 

This Roman belief in the offense to deity im- 
plicit in the building of a bridge is illustrated 
by examples, similar but of independent origin, 
found among other peoples. There is a legend 
that the security of London Bridge was due to 
its stones having been sprinkled with the blood 
of children. Another version makes the se- 
curity of the bridge depend on the sacrifice of 
a prisoner; and the children's singing game 

"London Bridge is broken down 
London Bridge is broken down 
London Bridge is broken down 
My fair lady 

probably goes back to this form of the 'belief. 
For in the game the children seize a prisoner 
who is released only after a forfeit has been 
exacted. 3 

In some of the later religious systems the 
river-spirit of the ancients survived in the form 
of the Devil. It is said that the Mohamme- 
dans of Herzegovina regard a bridge as evi- 

3 Cf. Gomme, Traditional Games of England, Scotland 
and Ireland, 



dence of an unholy compact between its builder 
and the Evil One. Only on the assumption that 
the Devil has received adequate compensation 
can they account for the diminution of his 
power indicated by the bridging of the stream, 
and so they curse both bridge and builder as 
they pass. 4 In Christian sects also the Devil 
succeeded the pagan river-spirit. The appella- 
tion " Devil's Bridge " found in so many parts 
of the world goes back to this ancient heathen 
idea, for the drift of the legends is that the 
Devil would not allow the bridge to be built 
till he had been placated by a human sacrifice. 
The pagan associations of bridges survived 
in still another form in mediaeval Christianity, 
namely, in the bridge over the river of death in 
the lower world. All the dread implications of 
bridge legends and beliefs were intensified in 
the case of this " Bridge of Death " or " Bridge 
of Judgment " as it was variously called. For 
over it the soul must pass. 5 Moreover, a bridge 
has a conspicuous part in the mediaeval legends 
of Alberic, St. Paul, and others, as well as in 
that funeral chant, the " Lyke-Wake Dirge," 
which was sung in Yorkshire as late as the 

4 Evans, Through Bosnia and Herzegovina, 316. 

5 St. Patrick's Purgatory (Wright's edition, 1844), 
chap. 4. 



seventeenth century. Whether the appearance 
of this bridge in the legends of American In- 
dians is due to original native ideas or is to be 
attributed to their early contacts with Catholic 
peoples is uncertain. 6 

6 See G. A. Frank Knight, loc. dt. 



PHALLICISM had its place among the 
early cults of Rome and Italy. This is 
apparent from the existence on the Velia 
of the shrine of the divinity Mutunus-Tutunus, 
whose double name has reference to the two 
sexes. Matrons, closely veiled, made offerings 
to him, and he played an important part at 
weddings. 1 Further, the Liberalia, the festival 
of Ceres and Liber, especially as celebrated at 
Lavinium, was known far and wide for the 
prominence of the phallic element, which in all 
probability antedated the identification of Liber 
with Dionysus. The cult of Priapus also, a god 
of procreation and f ruitf ulness from Lampsacus 
and other cities on the Hellespont, had reached 
Italy, and his statue with sickle, club, and phal- 
lic symbol, was frequently placed in Roman 
gardens. Amulets in phallic forms were be- 
lieved to have power to avert the evil eye and 

1 Tertullian, Apol, 25; Ad nat., II. n. Augustine iden- 
tifies him with Priapus, Civ. Dei, IV. u, 34. See Wissowa, 
R. u. K., 169. " 



for this reason one was fastened to the car of 
a Roman general celebrating a triumph. Many 
phallic ex-votos have been found on excavated 

Phallic beliefs did not pass away with pa- 
ganism. A contemporary account of the cele- 
bration of the feast of S. Cosma and S. Damiano 
at Isernia in the Abruzzi in 1780 shows the 
survival of pagan practices in an amazing de- 
gree of detail. 2 These Saints seem to have had 
in popular belief precisely the position held by 
Mutunus-Tutunus and Priapus in the minds of 
the Romans. They were petitioned by those 
desiring children or seeking a cure for sexual 
disease, and the offerings made to them were 
wax models of the parts affected. In France 
and Belgium during the Middle Ages there 
were Saints of the same kind. We hear of St. 
Foutin 3 at Varailles in Provence, from the ceil- 
ing of whose chapel many wax ex-votos of phal- 
lic form were suspended. In the north of 
France there was a cult of one Guerlichon or 

2 A letter from Sir William Hamilton, British Minister 
to the Court of Naples, printed in Payne Knight's book on 
the Worship of Priapus. Cf. Dulaure, Des dwinitis gen- 
eratrices, 257. 

8 Sometimes called Photin or Foustin. See Hartland, 
Primitive Paternity, I, 63-64. 



Greluchon, whose powers were supposed to be 
similar to those of Saints Foutin and Cosma. 
In Antwerp the figure of one Ters formerly 
stood at the gateway to the Church of St. Wal- 
burga in the Rue des Pecheurs. 4 The efforts of 
the Church, apparently without effect in the 
Middle Ages, have been more successful in our 
own times, and the most flagrant abuses have 
been stopped Yet traces of the old beliefs still 
linger in the common use by Italians today of 
amulets of phallic shape to protect them against 
the evil eye. Some of the finger gestures made 
for the same purpose are also of phallic origin. 

4 Hartland, loc. cit. 



A CULT of the spirits of the dead was 
one of the phases of Roman religion. 1 
In February (from the thirteenth 
to the twenty-first) there was a celebration 
of rites at the tombs of deceased members of 
the family. The festival was called Parentalia 
(from far ens, parent, ancestor) and offerings 
were made to the deified shades of the departed. 
That the spirits of the dead were thought of as 
gods is shown by the custom which Plutarch, 2 
citing Varro, mentions, namely, that when the 
sons on cremating the body of their father first 
saw the bones freed from the flesh they called 
out that the dead had become a god. There is 
also the letter of Cornelia to her son, in which 
she speaks of the divinity that would be hers 
after death. 3 Moreover, the spirits of the dead 

1 Fragment of Twelve Tables in Cic., Leg., II. 9. 22: 
Deorum manium iura sancta sunto; suos leto datos divos 

2 Quaest. Rom., 14. 

8 Cornelius Nepos, Frag. 2 (Winstedt's edition, Oxford, 



were regularly called di manes (the good 
gods). 4 The epithet manes was euphemistic 
and its purpose was to placate them. 

One of the elements in the attitude of the 
Romans toward the dead was the hope that 
through the performance of the prescribed cere- 
monies and the making of offerings they would 
win their favor and assistance; with their aid, 
they thought, good fortune might be their lot. 
Virgil brings this out clearly in Aeneas' words 
at his father's tomb: " Let us ask him for fair 
winds." 5 

Besides the Parentalia there were two other 
festivals of the dead, the Larentalia on the 
twenty-third of December and the Lemuria on 
the ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth of May. On 
the occasion of the former an offering was 
made by the pontiffs and the high-priest of 
Quirinus at the so-called grave of Larenta in 
the district of Rome known as the Velabrum. 
But we know that it was not a grave; it was a 
mundus, that is one of those round pits into 

1904): ubi mortua ero, parentabis mihi et invocabis deum 

4 Varro, . L. y VI. 4: bonum antiqui dicebant manum. 

5 Aeneid, V. 59-60: 

Poscamus ventos, atque haec me sacra quotannis 
Urbe velit posita templis sibi ferre dicatis. 



which offerings to the gods of the lower world 
were cast. For it is clearly indicated in many 
sources that the Romans believed that the spir- 
its of the dead lived beneath the earth. La- 
renta seems to have been a divinity of the lower 
world, possibly of Sabine origin. 6 The cere- 
monies of the May festival, the Lemuria, fur- 
nish unmistakable evidence of the belief that 
the spirits of the dead sometimes revisited their 
former homes and unless placated would make 
mischief* At midnight the head of the family 
walked through the house and, spitting out 
black beans as an offering to the ghosts, nine 
times he bade them take their departure. 7 

Mention should also be made of the festival 
of Rosaria, a private ceremony, celebrated by 
Roman families or organizations in May. On 
this occasion tombs were lavishly decorated 
with roses. 

The account given indicates the general na- 
ture of Roman eschatological belief. One of 
its most obvious and notable features is fear, 
as is seen not only from the euphemism of the 
appellation di manes but also from the cere- 
monies of the Parentalia and Lemuria. A de- 

6 Varro, L. L., V. 74 (Larunda) . 

7 Manes exite paterni (Ov., Fasti, V. 443). 



sire to prevent a hostile attitude on the part of 
the spirits is seen everywhere. The perform- 
ance of the ceremonies and the making of the 
offerings were the fulfilment of the just re- 
quirements of the divine beings (ius divinum). 
Neglect of these would result in unfriendly re- 
lations with the shades such as pious Romans 
could not contemplate with tranquillity. The 
fear, to be sure, was vague and indefinite, but 
it was "none the less efficacious. Vagueness, in- 
deed, is another of the notable characteristics 
of the whole cult of the dead. In the early 
period and almost to the end of the Republic 
there seems to have been little individualiza- 
tion of the spirits of the departed. The tend- 
ency was to regard them as an indiscriminate 
multitude. References to the spirit of a par- 
ticular individual are more common in the im- 
perial period. 8 When detailed descriptions of 
the lower world or definite references to the 
felicity of the blessed and the punishment of 
the wicked in Hades appear in Latin lit- 
erature, they are invariably borrowed from 
foreign sources. They had no place in the old 
Roman religion. 

8 Tacitus, Ann., XIII. 14. 6: infernos Silanorum manes 



The pagan festivals of the dead seem to have 
been among those that showed persistence in 
survival. 9 There are indications that they were 
celebrated even under Christian emperors. For 
a list of Campanian festivals approved by the 
Christian emperor Theodosius in the year 387 
includes a festival of the dead held at Lake 
Avernus. The list occurs in an inscription 
and it is noticeable that not a single Christian 
festival is mentioned. Either the number of 
Christians in Campania at the end of the fourth 
century was negligible or the Christians par- 
ticipated in pagan rites. 

But even after the pagan festivals ceased to 
be celebrated, the belief that the spirits of 
the dead could and, if properly approached, 
would give aid and protection to the living sur- 
vived. The fathers of the Church saw that this 
was one of those inherent beliefs to which the 
people would cling with that unyielding per- 
tinacity that manifests itself in the case of 
hereditary ideas. They compromised, shifting 
from the cult of the spirits of ancestors to the 
veneration of persons whose virtues, sufferings, 
or miraculous deeds justified their being re- 
garded as intermediaries between God and man. 

9 Cf. Preller-Jordan, Rom. Myth., II. 74. 



In other words the Saints succeeded to the 
worship of the dead just as they succeeded to 
the cult of the departmental deities and to the 
" little gods " of the Roman household. What 
happened in the case of the transfer of the cult 
of the departmental deities to that of the Saints 
has already been described. The same thing 
occurred in the transfer of the cult of ancestors 
to the Saints. For while the Church never gave 
the Saints a higher place than that of interme- 
diaries and intercessors whose aid might prove 
efficacious in gaining the favor of God, the 
masses of the population made no such fine dis- 
tinctions, and confusing means and end came 
to regard the Saints themselves as present helps 
in trouble and addressed their prayers directly 
to them. They were more interested in their 
power to help them in their troubles than in 
their virtuous lives or harrowing deaths. Prior 
to the Reformation the efforts to check this 
tendency toward polytheism took the form of 
ecclesiastical legislation but this proved in- 

Apart from the general doctrine of the ven- 
eration of Saints, there are some specific festi- 
vals of the modern Church that go back di- 
rectly to pagan customs connected with the 



dead. One of these is All Saints 7 Day, now 
celebrated on the first of November but till the 
time of Pope Gregory III observed on the thir- 
teenth of May, which was one of the days of 
the Roman festival of the dead, the Lemuria. 
Whether there is any connection between these 
dates or not, the rites of All Saints' Day are a 
survival not of the Lemuria but of the Paren- 
talia. For in the modern festival the faithful 
visit the tombs of the Saints, venerate their 
relics, and pray for their blessing. The next 
day also, the second of November, All Souls' 
Day, unquestionably reproduces some of the 
features of the Parentalia. People go in great 
numbers to the cemeteries and deck the graves 
of the members of their family with flowers and 
candles, and the mass, which takes the place of 
the ancient sacrifice, is directed to the repose 
of the souls of the departed. 

Another survival may be noted here. On 
the day after the Parentalia and forming a 
sort of conclusion to it was the festival known 
as the Caristia or Cara Cognatio (February 
22). This was a feast in which the members 
of the family, after performing their duties to 
the dead, participated. It seems highly prob- 
able that it was one of the contributing influ- 



ences to the agape or love-feast of the primitive 
Christians. 10 It was not, however, the sole 
source of this custom. Common meals were an 
established institution among the Jews and 
were a well-known feature of Roman trade 
guilds and associations of other kinds. At first 
the agape was attended by all the members of 
the congregation rich and poor, and was either 
preceded or followed by the celebration of the 
Eucharist. Later it was separated from the 
Eucharist and gradually came to be confined to 
the poor members of the group. It was the 
cause of increasing dissension in the fourth 
century and at length was discontinued. Ves- 
tiges of the custom, however, remained till the 
Council of Basle in the fifteenth century. And 
it has been revived in modern times by some 
German Baptists, the Moravian Brethren, the 
Wesleyan Methodists, and in Scotland by the 
followers of Robert Sandeman. 

Of the Lemuria with its prohibition of wed- 
dings during the days of its celebration (May 
9 ? ii, 13) we may have a survival in the prov- 
erb; " Bad prove the wives that are married in 

A conspicuous and notable part of the reli- 

10 Cf. Duchesne, Christian Worship, 49. 



gious ceremonies pertaining to the dead was the 
funeral procession, which in the case of men 
prominent on account of their birth or achieve- 
ments was organized on a highly elaborate 
scale. Starting from the home of the deceased 
it passed to the Forum, where it halted for the 
delivery of the funeral oration, and then pro- 
ceeded to the family tomb, which was always 
outside the city-walls and generally on one of 
the highways. Component parts of the proces- 
sion were musicians, professional mourners, 
dancers and clowns, slaves freed by the will of 
the deceased, carriages in which rode mutes 
wearing the masks of ancestors, torch-bearers, 
the funeral bier on which lay the deceased with 
face exposed, the sons with covered, the daugh- 
ters with uncovered head, and in some cases 
painted representations of heroic achievements 
by land or sea. 

An analysis of this procession enables us to 
reach a reasonable conjecture in regard to the 
ultimate significance of its different elements. 
For obviously it is not of single origin. To be 
sure the desire to do honor to the dead was 
present in ancient as well as in modern funerals. 
But the fundamental motive lay deeper, and 
was intimately associated with the belief of 


the Romans concerning the relations between 
the living and the dead. Of one phase of this 
belief perhaps the one indicating the lowest 
spiritual level we have evidence in the pres- 
ence of musicians and clowns. For on the 
analogy of practices common in other cultures 
the pipers and harlequins were there to counter- 
act the evil influence of either the spirit of the 
deceased himself or other demons of mischief- 
making type. The dirge of the professional 
mourners, with its set content of expression of 
the grief of the survivors and praise of the 
merits of the dead, can be traced back to 
the days when there were no professional 
mourners and the surviving members of the 
family sought to appease the spirit of the de- 
parted by the double compliment of the mani- 
festation of their inconsolable grief now that 
he was gone and the description of his high 
qualities and the recital of his achievements. 
This same desire to be in good relations with 
the dead was one of the principal motives also 
in the extravagant demonstrations of grief 
sometimes shown by the relatives during the 
funeral procession, such as tearing of hair, mu- 
tilation of face, beating of breast, and rending 
of garments. Not that the religious motive was 



always the operative one. Sometimes, it would 
seem, the funeral hysterics of the survivors had 
the extremely mundane purpose of averting sus- 
picions of foul play, which were always rife in 
a society in which poisoning at one time or an- 
other had a considerable degree of vogue. The 
torch-bearers have been explained as going 
back to the time when funerals were regularly 
held at night and lights were necessary. But 
in the employment of the torch in funerals of 
the historic period and its acceptance as a 
funerary emblem there is probably more than 
the remnant of a practical usage. Whether it 
was believed that the torch served to light the 
soul to the world beyond or cheer and comfort 
it or ward off malicious spirits it is difficult to 
say. Whatever its precise interpretation was, 
it was firmly established in the ritual of the 
services for the dead. So far as all the other 
features of the procession are concerned the 
parade of masks of ancestors, the files of manu- 
mitted slaves and other retainers, the pictorial 
representation of military or naval victories 
we must recognize that below the desire to pay 
honor lay that old fear of the spirit of the dead 
and the uneasy feeling that if one were to ex- 
pect any measure of success or prosperity in 


this world, it was essential to avoid the hostility 
of those who had passed into the next. 

Taken over by the Christian Church as early 
as the fourth century, the funeral procession 
has come down the ages essentially the same in 
the general nature of its appeal to the specta- 
tors and even retaining, though with changed 
significance, some of the details of the Roman 
practice. For example, it is reasonable to as- 
sume that the placing of lighted candles near 
the body of the deceased and the carrying of 
them in funeral processions is derived from that 
use of the torch at Roman funerals to which 
reference has just been made. Moreover, pro- 
fessional mourners are still employed at funer- 
als in Campania and Calabria. 

It has been thought that the " Dance of 
Death," a species of spectacular play that has 
been traced back to the fourteenth century, 
shows the influence of the Roman funeral. 
The resemblance is not striking, though there 
is some similarity between the ancient funeral 
march and the Trionfo della Morte as cele- 
brated in Florence in the sixteenth century as 
part of the Carnival. For in addition to the 
Christian figure of the Angel blowing the last 
trump and Death with his scythe there were 



men In black and white garb wearing death- 
masks as well as singers chanting the " Mise- 

Some scholars have held also that influence 
of the Roman funeral procession may be seen 
in the " Breton Pardon.' 7 But this is doubtful. 
The most notable features of that institution 
are obviously of different origin. 

The custom of the funeral oration was taken 
over by the Church. We know that St. Am- 
brose delivered one in honor of his brother 
Satyrus, that St. Jerome spoke in memory of 
Paula, and St. Gregory on the occasion of the 
death of Basil of Caesarea. The practice has 
been continued down to our own times and the 
addresses common at funerals or memorial 
services in America and elsewhere reproduce 
some of the characteristics of the Roman lau- 
datio funebris. 

The custom of adorning the tombs of rela- 
tives with roses (the festival of Rosaria) sur- 
vived the fall of paganism. The early Chris- 
tians decorated the tombs of martyrs with 
evergreens, violets, amaranths, and roses. 
Churches also were frequently decked with 
flowers on important anniversaries. More- 
over, roses and other flowers were often 



carved on Christian tombs, and roses are 
painted on the walls of the catacombs of Ca- 
lixtus. Later the pagan Rosaria became incor- 
porated in the Christian feast of Pentecost, 
which the Italians still call the Pasqua Rosa. 11 
Further, the conception of cemeteries as hal- 
lowed ground, as it obtains among modern 
Christian communities, is an inheritance from 
Roman religion, which from very early times 
set aside places of burial as loci sacri. 

11 Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome, 50. 



THE CULT of Diana was of Italian 
origin and in all probability was intro- 
duced into Rome from Aricia. Both 
in Rome and in Aricia she was especially, 
though not exclusively, a goddess of women. 
Even before her identification with the Greek 
divinity Artemis she had other functions, and 
after that identification the range of her ac- 
tivities was still further extended. The epi- 
thets applied to her show in how many fields 
she was believed to be active. She is called the 
goddess of childbirth (Lucina and Ilithyia), 
the guardian of mountains and woods (custos 
montium et nemorum}, the queen of the woods 
(regina nemorum}, the lover of streams (laeta 
ftuviis), the huntress (venatrix and iaculatrix) , 
the goddess of the moon (lunata), the glory of 
heaven (decus caeK), the goddess of night 
(nocturna), the queen of the skies (regina 
polorum), the virgin goddess (virgo and 
innupta'), and the immaculate one (cast a). 



Some local epithets also, like those referring to 
her cult on the Aventine Hill (Aventina) , on 
Mount Tifata near Capua (Tijatina), and at 
Ephesus (Ephesia)* are applied to her. 

Of some of these numerous phases of the cult 
a few traces may still be found in the cult of 
the Madonna. For example, there are indica- 
tions that the veneration of Diana as a virgin 
goddess has contributed something to the wor- 
ship of the Virgin Mary. We know that one 
of the earliest churches erected in honor of 
Mary occupied the site of the famous temple 
of Diana at Ephesus. For although the original 
divinity of this sanctuary was an Asiatic god- 
dess, she had been identified with the Greek 
Artemis and ultimately with the Roman Diana. 
Possibly the tradition 2 that Mary had once 
stayed in Ephesus was an element in the 
foundation of this church, which Cyril in one 
of his letters calls the Great Church (Ecclesia 
Magna). It was at Ephesus in 431 that the 
synod was held at which Mary was first desig- 
nated Mother of God, and it is of some interest 
that the procession with which the populace 
celebrated the deification of Mary reproduced 

1 Cf. Carter in Epitheta Deorum s. v. Diana. 

2 A. Cuomo, Saggio apologetico della bellezza celeste 
e divina di Maria S. 5. Madre di Dio > 209. 



in such essentials as smoking censers and flar- 
ing torches the processions which for so many 
centuries had been an important part of the 
worship of Diana. Such processions have con- 
tinued down to modern times on the occasion 
of the crowning of the Madonna in various 
parts of the world. The coronation of the Ma- 
donna at Pompeii in 1887 is an example. 

But while the widespread worship of Diana 
as a virgin goddess undoubtedly facilitated the 
establishment of the cult of the Madonna and 
while there were direct contacts, such as that 
at Ephesus, between the pagan and the Chris- 
tian ceremonies, we must guard against the 
danger of exaggerating the influence of any one 
ancient deity in the development of the cult 
of Mary. There were many virgin goddesses 
in the ancient religions besides Diana: among 
the Romans, Minerva (virgo), Bona Dea (like 
Mary called sancta and sanctissima)] and 
among the Greeks, Artemis and Athene Par- 
thenos. These too had helped to familiarize 
the world with the idea of a virgin goddess. 

It is only in the same limited way that 
Diana's appellation of queen of heaven can be 
said to have influenced the designation of the 
Virgin Mary as queen or sovereign of the uni- 



verse. 3 For other pagan divinities had con- 
tributed their quota to the establishment of 
this idea in the minds of the people. The 
Roman Juno had been called queen; the Greek 
Hera had borne the same title; the Carthagini- 
ans had their queen of heaven (Dea Caelestis) ; 
the Egyptian Isis 7 the Phoenician Astarte, and 
the Babylonian Mylitta had all been queens of 
heaven. The source of this appellative as ap- 
plied to Mary is as multiplex as the title of 
immaculate virgin. 

To the local epithets of Diana given above 
there are parallels in the case of the Madonna. 
For just as the ancients spoke of Diana of 
the Aventine or Diana of Tifata or Diana of 
Ephesus, modern churchmen speak of the Ma- 
donna of Monte Verging the Madonna of 
Pompeii 7 the Madonna of Einsiedeln ; and 
many others. But here again the Madonna cult 
has been influenced not merely by Diana but 
by a practice that was common to many pagan 
cults and is illustrated by such examples as 
Juno of Argos, Juno of Lanuvium, and Venus 
of Cyprus, of Cythera, and of Mount Eryx. 

The contention that the Feast of the Assump- 

8 Cf. St. Alfonso di Liguori, Le glorie di Maria, 8, 9, n, 
17, 21, 97, 198, 446 for such titles as Sovrana, Regina and 
Sovrana dell' Universo. 



tion of the Blessed Virgin owes the date of 
its celebration to the festival of Diana seems to 
be without adequate support. There is, more- 
over, a discrepancy in date. The ancient festi- 
val took place on the thirteenth of August, while 
the modern feast is on the fifteenth. 



THE FESTIVAL of the nineteenth of 
March (Quinquatrus), although it had 
originally been' connected with the 
cult of Mars, came to be associated with 
Minerva and in historic times was regularly 
celebrated in her honor. Among other things 
she was a goddess of education and this day 
was of unusual importance in the school-year. 
Not only was it, like festal days in general, 
a holiday for pupils and teachers, but on it 
teachers received their stipend or honorarium 
(minerval}. It was suggested by Hospinian, 1 
a Swiss theologian of the sixteenth century, that 
a practice that obtained in some schools in his 
own time was a survival, with obvious modi- 
fications, of the ancient tradition. He tells us 
that it was the custom to call children to school 
with songs and to give them a present on this 
day that was sacred to Gregory the Great, the 
patron of scholars. 

1 Cf. Brand, op. dt., I. 417 ff. 



THE FESTIVAL of Fortuna, "the god- 
dess who brings " (fero), was held 
on the twenty-fourth of June. Diffi- 
cult as is the question of the original signifi- 
cance of the cult, there is no doubt of an early 
connection with agriculture. We know that 
the farmers regarded Fortuna as a power who 
could bring them good crops or on the other 
hand manifest her displeasure by a lean year. 
Moreover, the time of year at which the festi- 
val took place and the nature of the festivities 
support the theory of an agricultural connec- 
tion. It was the season of harvest and rustic 
celebrations were appropriate. Whether the 
fact that this was the time of the summer sol- 
stice was an element in determining the date 
of the festival is not certain, but in all proba- 
bility it had something to do with it. The occa- 
sion was one of great merriment and the festival 
has sometimes been described as a summer 
The twenty-fourth of June is now St. John 



the Baptist's Day, and the modern festival may 
owe its date to the pagan celebration. It is 
almost certain that it does if the summer sol- 
stice was a factor in the dating of the Roman 
holiday. Some even claim that the midsummer 
fires and other quaint customs till recently so 
common at this season in Great Britain and 
Ireland and on the Continent may be traced 
back to this festival. This contention, how- 
ever, hardly admits of demonstration in detail. 
To be sure both the ancient and modern cus- 
toms belong to the sphere of rustic merry- 
making, and the practice of leaping over a fire 
cited by Brand 1 for various places in Great 
Britain has ancient Roman precedent. But 
neither of these facts bears directly on the ques- 
tion of actual influence of the ancient on the 
modern festival. For in the first place we have 
no evidence that the lighting of bon-fires was 
a part of the Roman festival; and secondly the 
leaping over a fire was a feature not of the 
festival of Fortuna on the twenty-fourth of 
June but of the feast of Pales (Parilia) on the 
twenty-first of April. 

But the function of Fortuna was never in 
any period confined to agriculture. Even in the 

1 Op. dt., I. 306 ff. 



agricultural sphere her name, meaning as it 
does " the one who brings," connoted the idea 
of what we call fortune or luck. And this con- 
cept was equally apparent in another sphere 
in which her cult attained distinct importance, 
namely, that of women's lives and especially 
childbirth. Obviously there might be good or 
bad luck there. Indeed the cult showed its 
greatest development along this line of Fortune 
or Chance. We hear of the Fortune of the 
Imperial House, the Fortune of the Equestrian 
Order, the Fortune of the State, the Fortune 
that stays with one, the Fortune that deserts 
one, and so forth. Many other divinities in 
the Roman pantheon declined as the centuries 
passed but the history of the cult of Fortune 
shows constant expansion and steadily increas- 
ing vogue. 

Of this goddess of Chance we have a sur- 
vival in our frequent personification of fortune. 
Moreover, one of the emblems of the Roman 
goddess was a wheel, symbolizing mutability; 
and the " wheel of fortune " still survives in 
modern literature and life. It must be men- 
tioned here, however, that according to one 
theory 2 the wheel that appears as an attribute 

2 Gaidoz, Etudes de Myth. Gaul., I. 56 ff. 



of Fortuna is not a symbol of mutability or in- 
stability but a representation of the orb of the 
sun. Under this interpretation Fortuna was a 
solar divinity, and in support of this view much 
emphasis is naturally laid on the occurrence 
of the festival at the summer solstice. The 
midsummer fires are pressed into service and 
burn briskly in illustration of the theory. At- 
tention is also drawn to the practice attested 
for some places in England of rolling a wheel 
down a hill on St. John the Baptist's Eve. 3 
Sometimes straw is twisted around the wheel 
and lighted. This is held to symbolize the de- 
cline in the power of the sun as the days begin 
to shorten. But plausible as some of the phases 
of this explanation are, the evidence adduced 
is not convincing. 

There was another festival of Fortuna on 
the first of April. This was the day on which 
Roman women of the lower class honored For- 
tuna Virilis, who represented good fortune in 
relations with men. As an important part of 
the ceremonial of the day the women bathed in 
the men's baths. In view of this fact it is not 
surprising that on the introduction of the cult 
of Venus Verticordia, a goddess of Greek and 

3 Brand, op. ctt. } I. 298 ff. 



ultimately Oriental origin, her festival (the 
Veneralia) was put on the same day. That the 
celebration involved a very considerable degree 
of license and foolery may be assumed. But 
there seems to be no evidence to support the 
suggestion that the practices of our April Fools' 
Day have their origin here. No satisfactory 
contact has ever been made between the cus- 
toms now prevalent on the first of April and the 
rites either of Fortuna Virilis or of Venus Verti- 
cordia, who to large extent superseded her. 
Equally inconclusive is the theory of Barns, 4 
who, partly on the basis of the affinity between 
Venus and the maiden-mother Arianrhod 
pointed out by Rhys in his Hibbert Lectures, 
thinks that All Fools' Day should be traced 
back to a Celtic form of this worship of Venus. 

* M. JR.. E. } L 332. 



IN THE offering of tithes by successful gen- 
erals, traders and others at the Great Altar 
of Hercules in Rome on the twelfth of 
August, we possibly have a development of 
some simple offering of first-fruits made by the 
early Romans at a time when the community 
was chiefly agricultural. That it was the cus- 
tom in various parts of ancient Italy to offer 
first-fruits to the gods we know. Sanctity still 
adheres to the first-fruits of the harvest in many 
countries of Europe, as Mannhardt and Frazer 
have shown. Such a custom as that which once 
obtained in some parts of Yorkshire, namely 
the cutting of the first grain by the vicar and 
its use in making the bread for communion, 
must be regarded as the relic of a religious idea 
that was widespread among the ancient peoples 
of Europe. 

On the other hand it has never been finally 
demonstrated that the tithes offered to Hercules 
at the Great Altar were originally first-fruits 



of the harvest. All we can say is that they may 
have been offerings of this kind. According to 
some scholars the tithes were of Semitic origin, 
having been instituted in the cult of Hercules 
as a result of his identification with the Phoeni- 
cian divinity Melcarth. 1 

Nor can we accept without many reservations 
the suggestion that the tithes of Hercules in- 
fluenced the institution of tithes in the Christian 
Church. This system was adopted by the 
Christians from Semitic sources. They were 
familiar with it from their study of the Old 
Testament. At most, the tithes of Hercules 
could have influenced the Christian practice 
only in so far as they served to accustom the 
Romans to the system and thus paved the way 
for its establishment on the more comprehen- 
sive plan which the Christians adopted. 

1 Cf . Gardner in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, XIII, 
75 (1892). 


THESE gods, generally called Dioscuri 
(sons of Zeus), although originally of 
Greek provenance, had been intro- 
duced into Rome from some Latin city, possibly 
Tusculum, and so were always considered by 
the Romans as of Italic origin. It was for this 
reason that their temple was built within 
the sacred boundary (pomerium) of the city. 
Among other things Castor and Pollux were 
protectors of sailors. Both Greek and Roman 
ships often carried their images or used as their 
emblem the stars that so frequently appear in 
representations of the twin divinities. 1 This 
ancient emblem has not yet disappeared and 
may still be seen among the fisher-folk on the 
islands of the Mediterranean and along the 
coasts of southern Italy. Moreover, the electri- 
cal phenomenon that plays about the spars of 
ships on the Mediterranean after a storm was 
regarded of old as a manifestation of the gods' 

1 Cf. Acts, 28. ii. 



presence, 2 This belief still survives in modi- 
fied form. Modern sailors see in these lights 
indications of a divine presence but they at- 
tribute them to St Elmo, a patron Saint of 
sailors. We do not, however, know very much 
about St. Elrno. Rendel Harris, pointing out 
that Romulus and Remus had attained some 
degree of sanctity among the Romans even be- 
fore the introduction of Castor and Pollux, 
thinks that St. Elmo's name is connected with 
Remus, who is commemorated in San Remo 
on the coast of Italy, and indeed, so far as some 
of its forms are concerned, there is a resem- 
blance. 3 But this theory is ingenious rather 
than convincing. 

Professor Harris is also inclined to think that 
we have a reminiscence of Castor and Pollux 
in the pair of Saints Cosma and Damiano. 
Nor is he alone in this belief. Deubner, 4 
though approaching the question from a dif- 
ferent angle, has come to the same conclu- 
sion. The latter is of the opinion that the cult 
of these Saints, which flourished especially in 
Constantinople, inherited the tradition of Cas- 

2 Cf, Horace, Od., I. 3. 2. 
s Cf. E. JR.. K, Xn. 499. 
4 De incubatione, chap. IV, 



tor and Pollux who, as he thinks, were wor- 
shipped as gods of healing in that city and in 
whose temple the sick were accustomed to sleep 
in hope of a cure (incubatio} . That Cosma and 
Damiano were medico-saints and that incuba- 
tion was commonly practiced in their churches 
in Constantinople is a well-established fact. 6 
And there can be little doubt that the same 
custom obtained in their churches in other 
places, for example in Rome, where they had 
a famous sanctuary in the Forum. To be sure 
the function of healing is not a feature of the 
cult of the Dioscuri as we know it in most 
places, but there are passages in ancient authors 
which show that their temples were sometimes 
used for incubation. 6 

5 Hamilton, Incubation, 112. 

6 Ibid., 120. 



'"' I 'HE PRACTICE of incubation, re- 
I ferred to in the preceding section, was 
J^ chiefly associated with Aesculapius, 
god of healing. He was a Greek divinity whose 
cult was brought to Rome from Epidaurus in 
293 B.C. An outbreak of plague was the imme- 
diate occasion of the introduction. The story 
is that as the ship bearing the envoys who had 
been sent to Epidaurus in regard to the estab- 
lishment of the worship, sailed up the Tiber on 
its return to Rome, the sacred snake which had 
been brought from the Epidaurian temple 
slipped overboard and swam to the island in 
the Tiber. This was regarded as an indication 
of the divine will and the temple of the god 
was erected there. A few remains of it may 
still be seen but they are not sufficient to enable 
us to visualize it in detail. 

While the Roman worship never attained 
the fame of the cult at Epidaurus and other 
places in Greece, it seems to have enjoyed a 


moderate prosperity and in the second century 
of the Empire gained the favor of the em- 
peror Antoninus Pius. Doubtless the system 
followed at the Roman sanctuary was the same 
as that at other temples of the god. The 
patients slept in the temple or In some other 
building equipped as a sleeping place within 
the precinct. Their belief was that the god 
would heal them while they slept or would tell 
them in a dream what they must do in order 
to be cured. While therapeutic treatment was 
applied in some cases, in the main it was a sys- 
tem of faith-cure, and innumerable successful 
cases were reported. Many inscriptions found 
at Epidaurus and elsewhere attest the gratitude 
of those who had regained their health through 
incubation. 1 It was, moreover, usual for the 
person cured to make a gift to the sanctuary. 
These offerings took different forms: an image 
of the part of the body that had been cured, or a 
statue or bas-relief or money. Ex-voto inscrip- 
tions also have been found at Rome and other 
places in the neighborhood. One inscribed on 
a marble stand discovered on the Tiber island 
records that it supported a silver image of a 
spleen that had been healed by the god. 2 

1 Hamilton, Incubation, 17 ff. 2 Ibid., 67. 


Incubation was adopted by the Church and 
has never ceased to be practiced. It was com- 
mon in the early days of Christianity, flourished 
in the Middle Ages, and is still popular in some 
Catholic communities. That the cult of 
Aesculapius had more influence than any other 
in establishing the practice seems certain, but 
as has already been indicated, it was used in 
connection with other deities also. In the 
Christian churches it was Christ, instead of 
Aesculapius, who healed through the interces- 
sion of the Saints to whom the churches were 
dedicated. Hamilton 8 cites examples for the 
mediaeval period from Italy, Gaul, Germany, 
and Britain. The system was very similar to 
that of the pagans, and a vision that came to 
the patient as he slept in the church dedicated 
to some of the famous medico-saints was often 
the medium of the cure. Among the Saints ven- 
erated as physicians in the Middle Ages we 
hear of St. Martin at Tours, St. Julian at Ar- 
vernus, St. Maximinus at Treves, and St. Peter 
and St. Paul at Cambridge. 4 Some of the mala- 
dies cured were paralysis, epilepsy, insanity, 
lameness, and blindness. The mediaeval Saints 
were as courageous in the face of serious dis~ 
8 Op. tit., 113, 114. 4 Ibid., 113. 



eases as the priests of Aesculapius had ever 
been. Among the churches where incubation is 
still practiced may be mentioned the Cathedral 
at Amalfi, 5 dedicated to St. Andrew, and chap- 
els of St. John in Calabria and Sardinia, in 
which incubation is especially common on St. 
John's Eve. Trede 6 points to Santo Giro of 
Portici near Naples as the Aesculapius of that 
town and its neighborhood. He was a physician 
in his life time, and the power of healing has 
been predicated of him ever since he became a 
Saint. San Roque, the patron Saint of several 
communities in Campania, is also thought to 
continue those healing functions through which 
in his life time he brought aid to so many of 
those suffering from the plague. 

As in the pagan Roman system, preliminary 
rites always precede the sleeping in the sacred 
edifice with a view to the establishment of the 
proper attitude of mind on the part of the per- 
son seeking divine aid. That in both ancient 
and modern times faith has proved salutary 
and in some cases even resulted in cures is too 
well-known to call for further demonstration. 
In Marius the Epicurean 7 Pater speaks of the 

5 Hamilton, op. dt., 185 f. 6 Ibid., 203. 

7 Chap, III. 



period of the Antonines, when the cult of Aes- 
culapius was especially popular, as " an age of 
valetudinarians." Without stopping to discuss 
the historical accuracy of the phrase, it may 
be admitted at least that such cults as those of 
Aesculapius or of the healing Saints of medi- 
aeval or modern times would be sure to make 
a particularly strong appeal to valetudinarians 
and hypochondriacs. 

An interesting little item of medical history 
has been pointed out In connection with the 
temple of Aesculapius on the Tiber island. 
When Christianity prevailed over paganism, 
the sleeping porches of Aesculapius yielded to 
the hospital of San Bartolomeo, which after so 
many centuries still remains one of the hospi- 
tals of Rome. But the therapeutic associations 
of the place have gone even further. For it was 
this Roman hospital of San Bartolomeo that 
furnished inspiration and name for St. Bar- 
tholomew's, the famous hospital in London. 
Without a break the connection runs from the 
Tiber island in the third century before Christ 
to London in the twentieth century of the 
Christian era. 8 

The usual attribute of Aesculapius was a 

8 Cf. Carter, Religious Life of Ancient Rome, 42. 


staff with a serpent coiled around it. The sug- 
gestion that the staff symbolized the peripatetic 
function of the physician must be rejected as 
untenable insomuch as patients came to Aes- 
culapius ; he did not go to them. It is possibly 
of Oriental origin and its explanation may lie 
in the field of the magic wand. That the con- 
nection of the snake with healing is very an- 
cient is as certain as the precise interpretation 
of the association is doubtful. Both staff and 
serpent have survived in the symbolistic devices 
of medical schools and societies all over the 
world. Error, however, sometimes creeps in, 
and the wand of Mercury, around which two 
snakes coil, is sometimes substituted for Aes- 
culapius 7 staff with its single serpent. Medical 
organizations would be less favorable to the 
wand of Mercury as a symbol of their art if 
they bore in mind the fact that one of that 
god's functions was to conduct souls to the 
other world. 



IT WAS only after his identification with the 
Greek god Poseidon that Neptune had any 
connection with the sea. That the identifi- 
cation had already been made by 399 B.C. is 
clear from his appearance in the lectisternium 
held at Rome in that year. There he is paired 
with Mercury and the combination obviously 
reflects ideas of over-seas trade. The cult 
came to Rome from southern Italy, where it 
was established in many places, the temples 
at Tarentum and Paestum being especially 

Some traces of this cult still remain. There 
is one in a statue of St. Anthony at Sorrento 
which shows a dolphin, a common attribute of 
the ancient sea-god Poseidon-Neptune. And it 
seems probable that in southern Italy, as in 
Greece, 1 St. Nicholas has to some extent taken 
the place of the pagan god. There is, for ex- 
ample, one feature of the festival held in honor 

1 Hyde, Greek Religion and Its Survivals, 62, 66. 



of St. Nicholas at Bari on the Adriatic coast 
that has all the appearance of a survival of the 
Roman god. In a procession in which priests 
and the general public participate boatmen and 
fishermen carry the statue of the Saint down to 
the seashore. There they place it on an elabo- 
rately decorated barge and take it out to sea. 
Hundreds of boats follow in a sort of marine 
triumphal procession. 2 

Moreover, in the command of the sea at- 
tributed to St. Nicholas in a devotional leaflet 
of the Church, 

Santo Eroe, il quale col commando di sua voce 
calmava i venti e le tempeste, 

there is a striking reminder of the picture of 
Neptune given by Virgil: 3 

Sic cunctus pelagi cecidit fragor, aequora postquam 
Prospiciens genitor caeloque invectus aperto, 
Flectit equos, curmque volans dat lora secundo. 

Trede is convinced that there are traces of 
the Neptune cult in many other coast-towns of 
southern Italy where St. Nicholas is especially 
venerated. He even imagines that many of the 

2 Trede, op. tit., II. 333. 
8 Aeneid, I. 154 ff: 



statues or pictures of the Saint in the churches 
show the influence of the pagan representations 
of Poseidon and Neptune. But the evidence 
he furnishes is anything but convincing. It 
falls as far short of demonstrating his case as 
his argument that in the horse-breeding now 
carried on in the neighborhood of Paestum 
(called Poseidonia by the ancients) we have a 
survival of the pagan connection of Poseidon 
with horses and horse-racing. 



EjENDS of early Rome contain stories 
of the deification of mortals. Aeneas was 
said to have been deified and worshipped 
as Aeneas Indiges on the banks of the River 
Numicus. Romulus was reported to have been 
carried up to heaven from the Campus Martius. 
These were legends, but with the beginning of 
the Empire the deification of the ruler became 
an established part of the Roman system, 
lulius Caesar was declared a god Divus was 
the term used by senatorial decree and his 
worship was put on a full ceremonial basis with 
temple, priests, and ritual. The same thing 
was done in the case of Augustus, Claudius, 
Vespasian, and Titus. This was one of the 
phases of Roman religion that showed exten- 
sion and growth as the generations passed. 
For while only four of the first eleven emper- 
ors attained deification, from Nerva on almost 
all were made Divi. The last of the Divi was 
Romulus, son of Maxentius, who was deified 
in 307. The formal deification of a member of 


the imperial family never took place at Rome 
till after death. There is, however, plenty of 
evidence pointing to the worship of emperors in 
the provinces and in various parts of Italy dur- 
ing their life time. 

Nor was deification confined to emperors or 
members of the imperial house. The poet Vir- 
gil attained after death a virtual deification, 
and apparently there were many who believed 
that Apollonius of Tyana had divine powers 
during his life time. 

The surprising nature of this worship of mor- 
tals by the Romans fades out when we study 
their religious system as a whole, and recognize 
that in their minds no such chasm separated 
the human and the divine as modern theology 
has been prone to postulate. They believed in 
intermediate beings whose powers so far tran- 
scended those of ordinary men that they de- 
served to be classed with the gods. That so 
deep-seated a religious tradition as this was not 
likely to pass away is obvious ; that it did not 
pass away we know from the evidence furnished 
by the cult of the Saints. 

In this connection we must remember also 
the prevalence in the world at the beginning of 
our era of a belief in the coming of a deliverer. 


This idea took different forms in different 
countries. To some persons Augustus was such 
a deliverer, as is seen from an inscription re- 
ferring to his birthday. 1 With such an idea as 
this permeating the civilized world, men were 
more and more ready to recognize potentiali- 
ties of divinity in men and to acclaim them as 

One phase of this cult of deified mortals has 
a very clear tradition, namely, the veneration of 
relics. Definite evidence of its existence among 
the Greeks is furnished by the oracle that 
emanated from Delphi that the Athenians 
should bring the bones of the hero Theseus to 
Athens. In Italy the bones of Virgil attained 
sanctity, and as the centuries passed they were 
regarded more and more as a guaranty of safety 
to the city of Naples where they were deposited. 
Furthermore, places associated with deified 
heroes were considered sacred, for example, the 
hut of Romulus preserved century after century 
on the Palatine Hill and the house of the Fla- 
vian family on the Quirinal Hill. We know 
also that Augustus regarded earth from a tomb 
as sacred. 

1 Mitth. Arch. Inst. Ath., XXIV, 275 ff. (1899) ; Ram- 
say, Letters to the Seven Churches, 436 ; Iverach in E. R. E, t 
under Caesarism. 


Reports of miracles wrought by human be- 
ings were common among the ancient Romans 
and were accepted by the great mass of the 
people without question. The Emperor Ves- 
pasian was believed to have the power of heal- 
ing; Apollonius of Tyana was credited with 
miracles; and many other examples might be 
cited. How prevalent the belief was in the sec- 
ond century is indicated by Lucian's 2 ridicule 
of it. 

Roman society, therefore, at the time when 
Christianity emerged, was wholly familiar with 
the ideas of a man-god ; the sacrosanct quality 
of relics, and the frequent occurrence of mira- 
cles. The Christians adapted themselves to 
the pagan attitude. They matched the miracle- 
workers of the pagans with wonder-working 
Saints; and with their success the number of 
miracles increased. The sanctity of relics, well- 
established as it had been among the pagans, 
acquired far greater vogue in Christian times 
and was given a degree of emphasis that it had 
never had before. The idea showed extension 
also in the division of the remains of a Saint and 
in the efficacy attached even to the smallest 
relic. Moreover, we find the term Divus which 

2 De dea Syria. 


had acquired its special connotation through 
the deification of emperors applied to Christian 
Saints. Examples are Divus lanuarius (S. Gen- 
naro), Divus losephus (S. Giuseppe), and Diva 
Agatha (S. Agatha). And at the end of this 
word's long history is its faded application in 
modern times to actresses and opera-singers. 

Like the deified heroes and emperors of 
pagan times the Saints were honored with altars, 
sacred edifices, incense, lights, hymns, ex-voto 
offerings, festivals with illuminations and high 
hilarity, prayers and invocations. They be- 
came intermediate divinities with intercessional 
and tutelary powers. 

That St. Paul and Jesus himself would have 
regarded many of these beliefs and practices 
as wholly foreign to the spirit of Christianity is 
certain. Some of the early Christians them- 
selves protested against the cult of the Saints : 
for example, Vigilantius arid Faustus in the 
fifth century. But on the other side were such 
great apologists as Augustine, Jerome, Am- 
brose, Chrysostom, and Basil, who though 
claiming that God alone was worshipped, ex- 
pressed full belief in the efficacy of the inter- 
cession of the Saints. 




THE CULT of this Phrygian divinity, 
variously called the Mother of the 
Gods, Cybele, the Great Mother or 
the Idaean Mother, was introduced into Rome 
in 204 B.C. Doubt, discouragement, and fear 
in regard to the issue of the war with Hannibal, 
who was still in Italy with his army of invasion, 
drove the Romans to seek the aid of foreign 
gods. A commission was sent to the East, the 
sacred stone, the symbol of the goddess, was 
brought to Rome and the cult was established 
on the Palatine Hill. It was the first Oriental 
cult introduced into Rome. 

The goddess was a nature divinity, mother 
of gods, and mighty mistress of all forms of 
life. With her was associated Attis, whose 
death symbolized the dying of vegetation and 
his resurrection its revival in the spring. What 
part Attis had in the Roman cult of the Mother 
in republican times is not clear, but during the 


empire, especially from the time of the monu- 
ments and inscriptions pertaining to the tauro- 
bolium, the references to him are numerous. He 
is one of the redeemer-gods of pagan religion. 
Although this cult was one of the last to 
yield to Christianity and persisted obstinately 
after most of the other pagan forms of wor- 
ship had passed away, it left but few traces of 
its protracted dominance. To be sure points 
of contact with the Virgin Mary have been 
pointed out. One of Mary's titles, "the 
Mother of God" (Gran Madre di Dio), has 
inevitable reminiscences of the pagan " Mother 
of the Gods." Moreover, many a visitor to 
Rome and student of sculpture has commented 
on the resemblance between the statues of the 
two. Furthermore, we know that the shrine 
of the Virgin on Monte Vergine near Avellino 
in the Apennines not far from Naples, which is 
visited each year by thousands of pilgrims, at- 
tracted by the fame of the wonder-working 
image there, was once the site of a temple of 
the Great Mother. That they were confused 
in people's minds is shown by the question 
which an unbeliever addressed to Abbot Isidore 
of Pelusium in the sixth century. He asked 
what the difference was between the Magna 



Mater of the pagans and the Magna Mater 
Maria of the Christians. But mother-god- 
desses, whatever their origin or special char- 
acteristics, are bound to have certain features 
in common. Nor is there much reason for sur- 
prise in finding in Claudia's prayer x to the 
Great Mother a tone analogous to that of any 
prayer to the sanctissima Maria in modern 
times: "Hear my prayer, thou who art the 
gentle mother of the gods." 

During the days of the Megalesia, the festi- 
val celebrated in honor of the Great Mother 
on the fourth and the tenth of April, her priests 
collected money from the people. We cannot, 
however, see in this the origin of the institution 
of begging friars. There were mendicant 
Orphic priests as early as the time of Plato, 
and in all probability other cults had a similar 
system. All that can be said in regard to the 
influence of the begging priests of Cybele is that 
they were among those who contributed to the 
establishment of the practice. 

In regard to the relation of the taurobolium 
to Christianity no satisfactory results have ever 
been reached. The rite was among the most 
striking and curious of all those pertaining to 

1 Ovid, Fasti, IV. 319. 


the cult of the goddess. The devotee passed 
into a crypt the top of which consisted of 
boards widely spaced or of a metal grill, and 
down upon him rained the blood of a bull sac- 
rificed above. It was literally a baptism of 
blood. It cleansed the sins away. The person 
who submitted to it was " born again." Some 
ancient records speak of its efficacy as limited 
to twenty years; according to others it lasted 
forever. Everyone will observe the parallel- 
ism with the Christian doctrine of rebirth to 
righteousness. But apparently it is only a case 
of parallelism. It is a manifestation in two 
contemporary religions of an idea that was 
then filtering through the Mediterranean world. 
There is certainly no evidence that the Chris- 
tians derived it from the cult of the Great 
Mother. The earliest known taurobolic in- 
scription is dated A.D. 133, but Paul had 
preached the doctrine that men must be born 
again long before. 




IT WAS the Hellenized cult of Isis as organ- 
ized by Ptolemy the First that the Romans 
knew. While retaining some of the charac- 
teristics of the Isis of the older Egyptian reli- 
gion ; she had, through the Ptolemaic reorgani- 
zation or in the process of syncretism, acquired 
other functions. She was goddess of heaven, 
of earth, of the sea, and of the world below. 
The syncretism that made her in the eyes of 
her devotees the supreme arbitress of man's lot 
in life and resulted in her worship as Isis- 
Fortuna, manifested itself with still wider com- 
prehensiveness in the cult of Isis Panthea, in 
which she seemed to have absorbed the func- 
tions of all other divinities. 

With Isis in the Ptolemaic form of the cult 

were associated Serapis and Harpocrates. The 

origin of the former has been the subject of 

long and divergent discussion. Apparently his 



cult was introduced by Ptolemy the First and 
it may have been brought to Alexandria from 
Sinope. While the identification with Osiris, 
who in earlier Egyptian belief was the husband 
of Isis, explains some phases of the worship 
of Serapis, there are other aspects of his cult 
that show distinct Hellenistic influence. Like 
Isis he had wide and various functions. Among 
other things he appears as a sun-god. 

Harpocrates, a phase of the old Egyptian 
Horus, was the son of Isis. He too had con- 
tacts with solar worship and was adored as the 
newly-risen sun. 

There is evidence that the cult of Isis and 
her associates spread from Alexandria to the 
island of Delos. And from there it may have 
been taken to the Campanian port Puteoli, as 
there was a brisk trade between the two places. 
Its existence in Puteoli in the second century 
before Christ is well attested. 1 It may have 
come to Rome from Campania or it may have 
reached the city more directly. There is a 
strong probability that the tradition which as- 
cribes its introduction to the time of Sulla is 
correct. At any rate we know that it was suf- 

1 C. /. L., X. 1781; Dubois, Melanges d'archtologie 
et d'histoire, XXII, 47 ff. (1902). 

[I2 7 ] 


ficiently strong by the year 58 B.C. to cause 
some alarm among the Roman authorities, for 
the altars of Isis on the Capitoline Hill were 
destroyed at that time by order of the Senate. 
Persecution, however, seems to have had the 
usual result of defeating its own purpose. In 
the first century of the Empire, probably in 
Caligula's reign, 2 Isis and Serapis were recog- 
nized as state gods. From that time on their 
worship flourished. It was in a temple of Isis 
and Serapis in the Campus Martius that Ves- 
pasian and Titus passed the night before they 
made their triumphal entry into Rome in 71. 
In the second and third centuries the cult was 
one of the chief rivals of Christianity. There 
were as many as seven temples of the cult in 
Rome at this time. 3 

Many features of this Egyptian cult were ab- 
sorbed by the Christian Church and still sur- 


To mention first a fundamental point of the- 
ology, it is probable that the worship of the 
Egyptian triad Isis, Serapis, and the child Horus 

2 Wissowa, op. cit., 354. 

3 Legge, Forerunners and Rivals of Christianity, I. 79. 



helped to familiarize the ancients with the idea 
of a triune god and was not without influence 
in the formulation of the doctrine of the trinity 
as set forth in the Nicaean and Athanasian 
creeds. 4 One cannot of course be sure that the 
doctrine of trinity emerged first in Egypt. In 
Indian religion there is the trinity of Brahma, 
Siva, and Visnu, and this may be of very early 
origin. But it was not only the religious think- 
ers of the Orient who had been attracted by the 
concept of trinity. The Neoplatonists had 
elaborated trinitarian theories, and in the writ- 
ings of Plotinus, who was doubtless influenced 
by Plato's Timaeus, the Supreme Reality ap- 
pears in the trinitarian form of the Good, the 
Intelligence, and the World-Soul. 5 That Neo- 
platonism was one of the operative factors in 
the development of Christian theology seems 


FURTHER, the idea of Isis as the mother of the 
child Horus was in many minds transferred to 
Mary, mother of God. " Remember," said 

4 Legge, op. tit., I. 88 f. 

5 Fulton in E. R. E., XII. 458. 



Gregory the Great, when issuing his instruc- 
tions to a missionary to the Saxon heathens, 
" that you must not interfere with any tradi- 
tional belief or religious observance that can 
be harmonized with Christianity." And the 
policy of the Church toward the Saxons was 
not unique. The same method was used in 
dealing with pagans everywhere. It was the 
bridge over which untold thousands passed 
from paganism to the new faith. Without this 
adaptability Christianity might not have suc- 
ceeded. The shift from Isis to Mary was one 
of the easiest and most obvious. There are 
extant statuettes and figurines of Isis nursing 
Horus which are marked by a striking similar- 
ity to familiar representations of the Madonna 
and Child. It is said that sometimes images of 
this kind have been mistaken for representa- 
tions of Mary and Jesus and have actually been 
worshipped in Christian Churches. 6 Nor is it 
only as the infant son of Isis that Horus has 
been confused with Jesus. On the wall of a 
crypt in Alexandria there is a painting in which 
a youthful Christ of the beardless type is rep- 
resented as treading on serpents and trampling 
on a lion and a crocodile. This is said to 

6 Drexler in Roscher's Lexikon, II. 431. 



go back to a well-known representation of 
Horus. 7 


MOREOVER, in the bedizened images of the 
Madonna in many Churches in southern Italy 
and elsewhere one cannot but see a repetition 
of the extravagant ornamentation that charac- 
terized some of the statues of Isis, such as the 
figure of the goddess described in an inscrip- 
tion 8 in Spain, with its emeralds, pearls, and 
other jewels. 

An interesting religious tradition lies in the 
statement of Mackenzie Wallace 9 that an 
image of the Madonna, of especial sanctity, was 
from time to time taken by rich residents of 
Moscow to their houses. Its presence there 
was believed to bring a blessing on the family. 
This practice is one of great antiquity, for we 
know that the image of Isis was sometimes 
taken to the house of a devotee and left there 
for a brief period. Whether the modern prac- 
tice is derived directly from the ancient is dif- 
ficult to say. The evidence is hardly conclu- 

7 Ibid., where other examples are given. 
* C. I. L., II. 3386. 
9 Russia, 353- 



sive. But at least we have in the practice as 
it exists in the Madonna cult the survival of a 
belief that was well established in ancient times. 
Nor is the custom confined to the Madonna. 
The holy Bambino of the Church of the Ara 
Coeli on the Capitoline Hill in Rome has some- 
times been borrowed from the Church and 
taken to private homes. 


THE similarity between the cult-epithets of Isis 
and those of the Virgin Mary has often been 
pointed out. 10 While many of the parallels 
claimed, especially in the list given by Beaure- 
gard, 11 are imaginary, others are undoubtedly 
valid and furnish us with additional evidence 
of the contact of the two cults. Correspond- 
ing to Isis Regina are familiar appellations of 
the Virgin: Sovrana, Sovrana delP Universo, 
Regina. To Isis Mater corresponds the Chris- 
tian Mater Domini; to Isis Furva the Madonna 
Addolorata, to Isis Pelagia the Regina Maris 
(Madonna del Porto Salvo), to Dea Potens 12 

10 Hampson, Medii aevi kalendarium, 16-17, 145-146. 

11 Les divinitSs dgyptiennes, 174, 175, 341. 

12 Apuleius, Met., XL i, 16, 22. 



Maria della Potenza, to Isis Soteira 13 Madonna 
del Ajuto. 


SOME legends of saints have also been attrib- 
uted to the influence of the Isis cult. Usener 14 
sees traces of Isis Pelagia in the legends of St. 
Pelagia; others see the influence of the Egyp- 
tian divinities in the stories of St. Onuphrius 
and St. Catherine. But the arguments ad- 
vanced are not convincing. A more plausible 
case is made for the influence of the Horus cult 
on the legend of St. George. For some monu- 
ments show Horus as a young man, on horse- 
back, killing a crocodile with a spear ? and it 
may easily be that this representation has in- 
fluenced the familiar group of St. George and 
the dragon. 15 Still another theory seeks to es- 
tablish a connection between Horus and St. 


BUT there are still other features of the cult of 
Isis that have left their impression on modern 

18 Cf. Apuleius, ibid., XL 25, human! generis sospita- 
trix. Beauregard, op. cit., 341, compares the appellation 
Notre Dame de Bon-Secours. 

14 Die Legende der k. Pelagia, Bonn, 1879. 

15 E. Meyer, in Roscher's Lexikon, I. 2748. 



religious rites. Among the wall-paintings un- 
covered at Herculaneum there is one which 
shows a priest of Isis on the portico of a temple 
holding up a vase, presumably containing the 
holy water of the Nile, for the adoration of 
the devotees in the precinct below. 16 Obvi- 
ously this is an example of the gesture of ele- 
vating sacred objects, the continuance of which 
is seen in the Catholic ceremony of the mass. 


IT is probable also that the organization of the 
Christian clergy was influenced by the system 
that obtained in the cult of Isis. That the 
priestly service of the Church should show signs 
of its contacts with the other religions in the 
midst of which it grew up was, in view of its 
policy of adaptation, inevitable; and a study 
of all the priestly systems in vogue during the 
second and third centuries indicates that it is 
in the elaborate and specialized service of Isis 
that we must look for the prototype of the 
Christian clerical body rather than in any of 
the sacerdotal groups connected either with 
other Oriental cults in Rome or deities im- 
ported from Greece or indigenous cults of Italy. 

i fi Mam-Kelsey, Pompeii. Its Life and Art, 177, 178. 



But perhaps the most important phase of 
Isiac influence in the field of service and per- 
sonnel is to be found in that monachism which 
we know to have been part of the worship of 
Isis and which has from the fourth century been 
so significant an element in the organization of 
the Catholic Church. This is an old and vexed 
question. Many scholars have denied any in- 
fluence of the recluses of Isis and Serapis on 
Christian monachism. They have suggested 
other theories of its origin, variously attribut- 
ing it to Neoplatonism or the practices of the 
Druids or Orphism or Buddhist asceticism or 
Jewish monasticism with special reference to 
the Essenes. And there are some writers who 
refuse to admit the possibility of any outside 
influence. For example, Cabrol 17 says that 
" Christian monasticism is a plant that has 
grown up on Christian soil, nourished exclu- 
sively on principles of Christianity." So sweep- 
ing a statement will carry conviction to no one 
who has studied the question. Only those will 
accept it whose habit is to bury their heads in 
the dry sands of unthinking credulity. 

The explanation of the question does not 
really involve any special difficulty. From the 
17 E. R. E., vm. 783. 


data industriously collected by so many gen- 
erations of scholars it is clear that asceticism 
was a traditional feature of many ancient cults. 
Originating in an intense desire for closer com- 
munion of the spirit with God a common and 
natural religious attitude it became estab- 
lished under various forms in different commu- 
nities, and in the early days of Christianity 
was part of the religious conditions of the pe- 
riod. The verses in the New Testament to 
which the advocates of an independent origin 
for Christian monachism always appeal are in 
no sense an indication of independent thinking 
on the part of the Christian brotherhood. They 
are merely a sign of the times. 

But apart from the inheritance of a common 
religious practice the evidence seems to point 
to something more specific. For while it seems 
likely that influence should be attributed to 
the Essenes as well as to the teaching of the 
Orphists and Neoplatonists, the most direct 
source lies in the recluses connected with the 
cult of Isis and Serapis. 18 Of the existence of 
these we have known for a long time. The 

18 Weingarten, Der Ursprung des Monchtums im nach- 
constantinischen Zeitalter. Cf. Bouche-Leclerq in his ar- 
ticle " Les reclus du Serapeum de Memphis," Melanges 
Perrot, 1903, 17. 



fragments of papyrus containing records of the 
hermits of the Serapeum in Memphis were 
found as far back as 1820. These fragments 
make it clear that anchorites devoted to the 
worship of the Egyptian divinities lived there. 
Some of them took part in the services, while 
others seemed to have lived in the strictest se- 
clusion. Kenyon 19 dates the papyrus in the 
second century before Christ. Doubtless there 
were similar monastic groups in other centers 
of the Egyptian cult. That there were dev- 
otees of this kind in Alexandria is known. 
And Legge 20 has reason for giving credence 
to the story that when the Serapeum was 
destroyed toward the end of the fourth cen- 
tury after Christ and the Alexandrian religion 
perished after a notably successful career of 
seven centuries, many of the devotees trans- 
ferred their allegiance to the Christian faith. 
Moreover St. Anthony, who is often spoken of 
as the father of Christian monasticism, was a 
hermit in Egypt, and in its early days monasti- 
cism both in Italy and other parts of the West- 
ern Empire showed the influence of the An- 
tonian system. Nor can the influence of St. 

19 The Palaeography of Greek Papyri, 4, 38. 

20 Op. cit., I. 84. 



Pachomius, who established the first monastery 
(cenobimri) about A.D. 320, near Dendera in 
southern Egypt, be disregarded in the history 
of Christian monasticism. 


OTHER points of survival or resemblance should 
be noted briefly. A characteristic feature of 
the service of Isis was the use of the bronze 
rattle called sistrum. This may be the source 
of the practice of tinkling a bell in certain cere- 
monies of the Catholic Church. An instrument 
of the ancient form is said to be still in use in 
religious ceremonies in Abyssinia. 21 Further, 
the shaven heads of the initiates of Isis are said 
to be the ultimate source of the tonsure in the 
Catholic priesthood. 22 Moreover, the veiling 
of women in Isiac ceremonies has been sug- 
gested as the origin of the custom of women's 
heads being covered in church. 28 There may 
be influence in both these cases, but it should 
be pointed out that so far as the tonsure is con- 
cerned the tradition is somewhat precarious. 
As a matter of fact the tonsure did not become 

21 Roscher, Lexikon, II. 429. 

22 Bury, in Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman 
Empire, IV, App. 3, 527. 

23 Legge, op. cit., I. 86. 

F 1*8 1 


a matter of ecclesiastical ordinance till the sev- 
enth century. There is more continuity of 
practice in the use of the white linen robe as 
an article of sacerdotal costume. Worn by the 
priests of Isis, it is still an essential part of 
ecclesiastical dress. Again, there is a striking 
survival in the field of ex-voto offerings. Isis, 
among her numerous functions, was a goddess 
of health, and it was the custom of those who 
believed that they had been healed by her di- 
vine favor to hang up in her temple a sculp- 
tured or painted representation of the part of 
the body that had been affected. " Help me, 
Goddess, for the many painted tablets in thy 
temples show that thou hast healing power." 
So wrote Tibullus 2 * of Isis. And Juvenal's 25 
line that Isis provided a living for painters 
doubtless refers to the same thing. The offer- 
ings made by devout Catholics after recovery 
from illness and displayed in churches consti- 
tute a direct continuation of the ancient prac- 
tice. Finally, the Isiac processions had many 
features that cannot but impress the student of 
religious survivals: the carrying of sacred 
images, the elaborately decorated places where 

24 I. 3- 27-28. 

25 XII. 28: Pictores quis nescit ab Iside pasci? 



the procession paused, the burning of incense, 
the marching of the white-clad priests, and the 
whole-souled devotion of the initiates as they 
invoked the favor of their goddess, who could 
give them happiness in both this world and 
the next. The scene has undeniable points 
of similarity to the religious processions in 
Catholic cities of Europe, Well might the Em- 
peror Hadrian, 26 writing from Alexandria in 
A.D. 124, say that it was difficult to distinguish 
between the Christians and the devotees of 

26 The letter is to the consul Servianus: Illic (i.e., in 
Alexandria) qui Serapem colunt Christiani sunt, et devoti 
sunt Serapi qui se Christi episcopos dicunt (Historia Au- 
gusta, Saturninus. Teubner edition, Hohl, II. 227). 



THE CULT of Adonis was known to the 
Romans at least as early as the Au- 
gustan age, as is shown by Ovid's ref- 
erence, 1 and there are a number of allusions to 
it in the later imperial period. The Hellenized 
form in which it reached Rome seems to indi- 
cate that it was introduced from some Greek 
site rather than from Byblos in Phoenicia where 
it originated. Of it we have in all probability 
a survival in the worship of the cradle of Christ 
in Catholic Churches on Christmas Eve. For 
the rite as celebrated in such churches as 
S. Maria Maggiore in Rome goes back to the 
adoration of the cave in Bethlehem where 
Christ was born. The institution of the prac- 
tice there is as early as the time of Constantine, 
and we have Origen's testimony that almost 
any one in Bethlehem could point out the scene 
of the birth. But this cave had had earlier 
religious associations. It was the place where 

1 Ars Amatoria, I. 75. 


the youthful Adonis, beloved of Aphrodite, who 
died before his time, was bewailed by his dev- 
otees. 2 Helena, the mother of Constantine, 
rescued it from the heathen and built a basilica 
there, to which Constantine himself added rich 

2 See Usener, Weihnachtsjest, 283. 


WHILE Mithras, a Persian god of 
light, was known to some Romans 
at an earlier date, 1 his cult does not 
seem to have been introduced into Rome till 
about the end of the first century of the Em- 
pire. Nor is there any evidence that it made 
much headway in the first period of its estab- 
lishment. The earliest sanctuaries that can be 
dated with any degree of certainty belong to 
the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian. The favor 
of the Emperor Commodus, who is said to have 
been initiated into the mysteries of the cult, 
gave it prestige, and from that time its popu- 
larity steadily increased. From the inscrip- 
tions we see that not only the poor and lowly 
were numbered among the adherents of the 
god but also persons of noble birth and exalted 
social or official position. By the Emperors 
Diocletian and Maximian Mithras was desig- 
nated " patron of .their Empire " (fautor imperil 
1 Plutarch, Pomp., 24. 


sui}. The cult attained its greatest popularity 
in the second and third centuries. It did not 
pass away till the fourth. 

Our records of the cult chiefly sculptured 
monuments and inscriptions show a certain 
amount of confusion. For example, on more 
than one monument Mithras is seen with the 
Sun-god, either seated at a table with him and 
others, or riding in his chariot with him, or as- 
sociated with him in some other way. On the 
other hand many inscriptions identify Mithras 
with the Sun-god, dedications being found " To 
the Invincible Sun Mithras," In view of these 
facts we must infer that while the sculptured 
monuments found in such profusion through- 
out the western part of the Empire include 
the representation of beliefs or legends of Per- 
sian or Babylonian origin, in the minds of many 
Roman devotees Mithras was identical with the 

There are numerous indications of contacts 
and mutual influence between Mithraism and 
Christianity. Of their similarity we have evi- 
dence in St. Augustine's 2 statement that Mith- 

2 Johann. Evang. Tract., VII. But Cumont, T. et M., 
II, 59, pointing out that Mithras is not mentioned by 
name, contends that the words used, iste pileatus, "the one 
in the cap," refer to Attis rather than to Mithras. 



raists used to say that their god was a Chris- 
tian too. 



IT HAS been suggested 3 that the gospel story 
of the birth of Jesus and the adoration of the 
Magi 4 contains elements derived from the 
Mithras legend. More concretely and effec- 
tively Cumont 5 draws attention to the parallel 
furnished by those sculptured monuments 
which show shepherds watching the miraculous 
birth of Mithras from the rock to the story of 
the adoration of the shepherds at the birth of 
Christ. 6 


ANOTHER Mithraic relief shows Mithras as- 
cending to heaven in the chariot of the Sun-god, 
and comparison has often been made with the 
ascension of Elijah. Points of contact with the 
account of Christ's ascension have also been 
claimed. At any rate it is clear that both cults 
stressed an ascension story. 

3 Jean Reville in Etudes publites en kommage & la 
faculte de thtologie de Montauban, 1901, 339 f. 
* Matthew, 2. iff. 
s Cf. Legge, op. tit., II. 242. 
6 Luke, 2. 8ff. 




BUT there are still more striking resemblances. 
The Mithraists prescribed baptism for their 
initiates, seeing in immersion a means of ex- 
piating sin. 7 They had also a confirmation, 
which conferred the power of combating evil 
demons. And perhaps the most notable re- 
semblance of all they had a communion. 
Certainly this is the most plausible explanation 
of that scene on the sculptured monuments 
where Mithras, the Sun-god, and initiates of 
Mithras are shown at a table, eating and drink- 
ing. It was these resemblances that drove 
Justin Martyr 8 to exclaim that Mithraism was 
a diabolical imitation of Christianity. But it 
is not always clear which is the borrower. 


THE practice of calling one another " brother " 
and designating their priest as " father " may 
easily have passed from the Mithraists to the 

7 Porphyry, De antro nymph., 18; Tertullian, De prae- 
scrip., 40. 

8 First Apology, $6. 




ONE of the tenets of Mithraism was the di- 
vinity of kings, though it is not possible for us 
to determine whether this doctrine was the 
cause or the effect of the favor which the cult 
found with the kings of Persia and other Asiatic 
countries. The influence of this belief was 
profound and long-enduring. It undoubtedly 
tended to develop that attitude of mind, so 
common among Asiatics, that insisted on seeing 
in rulers and other men of high station indica- 
tions of divinity which merited ceremonial ven- 
eration during their life time and formal deifi- 
cation after death. We have the record of 
Roman generals in Asia who were honored with 
sacred rites, and these were merely forerunners 
of the long list of deified emperors of Rome. 
But while this idea of deified mortals found its 
most notable exemplification in the Divi, it did 
not pass away when the cult of the emperors 
perished. It lingered long in dynastic theories 
of Western Europe. It survives in such phrases 
as "sacred majesty' 3 and "divine right of 



AN interesting suggestion has been made that 
traces of Mithraism may be found in the reli- 
gious ceremonies of some tribes of Gypsies. 9 
A specific example is cited from the practices 
of the Gypsies who pay such special attention 
to the veneration of St. Sara in the lie de la 
Camargue ; Bouches du Rhone. It is claimed 
that just as the shrine of St. Sara rests upon an 
ancient altar dedicated to Mithras, so the wor- 
ship of the Saint still retains elements of the 
Mithraic cult upon which it has been super- 
imposed. The Gypsies of this neighborhood 
are supposed to be the descendants of the an- 
cient Iberians, who are known to have been 
acquainted with Mithraism. 


OUR observance of Sunday as the Lord's Day 
is apparently derived from Mithraism. The 
argument that has sometimes been used against 
this claim, namely that Sunday was chosen be- 
cause the resurrection occurred on that day, is 
not well supported. As a matter of fact the 

9 E. R. E. f VI. 464. Cf. Journal of Gypsy Lore Society, 
N. S., I, 92-95 (1907) and I, 391 (1908). Cf. also Winstedt, 

*m,n, 338 ff. (1909). 



first Christians adhered to the Jewish practice 
of keeping Saturday. Apparently the ob- 
servance of Sunday began with the Pauline 
Churches in Asia Minor, where the Mithraists, 
numerous and influential, had celebrated Sun- 
day long before the Christian era. For even 
in those forms of Mithraism that did not iden- 
tify Mithras with the Sun-god, the latter was 
always prominent in the cult. An interesting 
and significant phrase occurs in the Didache, 
" on the Lord's Day of the Lord," 10 which 
shows that there was another Lord's Day be- 
sides that of the Christians. This could have 
been none other than the Mithraists 3 day of 
their Lord, the Sun. On that day there were 
special Mithraic services and prayers. And 
when they prayed, the Mithraists like other 
sun-worshippers, faced the east in the morning, 
the south at noon, and the west at sun-set. 
Nor has this practice entirely passed away. 
There is a survival of it in the custom still 
followed in Catholic and some Episcopalian 
Churches of facing east during certain prayers. 
10 E. R. E,, under " Sunday." 



ONE OF the dominant religious ideas 
of the second and third centuries was 
the belief in the divinity of the Sun. 
We have already seen the elements of solar 
worship involved in the cults of Attis, Serapis, 
Adonis, and Mithras. But there were other 
important sun-cults also. The Emperor Ela- 
gabalus introduced into Rome the worship of 
the Syrian sun-god Elagabal, whose priest he 
had been in the East and for whom he was 
named. And in the year 274 the Emperor 
Aurelian dedicated a magnificent temple in 
Rome to " the Unconquerable Sun-god " (Deus 
Sol Invictus), who probably was the chief di- 
vinity of Palmyra in Syria. 


THIS divinity is of especial interest for our in- 
quiry, for his annual festival fell on the twenty- 
fifth of December and its relation to Christmas 



has been a matter of protracted discussion. 1 
Obviously the season of the winter solstice, 
when the strength of the sun begins to increase, 
is appropriate for the celebration of the festival 
of a sun-god. The day in a sense marks the 
birth of a new sun. But the reason for its be- 
ing chosen as the day for the commemoration 
of Christ's nativity is not so evident. Accord- 
ing to some scholars the time of year of the 
birth of Christ most widely accepted in the 
earlier period in the West was the end of March. 
The author of the pseudo-Cyprianic treatise 
De pascka computus, which was written in 243, 
gives the twenty-eighth of March as the date. 
He states that Sunday, the twenty-fifth of 
March, the vernal equinox, was the first day 
of creation; and that the sun and moon were 
created on Wednesday the twenty-eighth. 
Then after a highly fanciful series of computa- 
tions he arrives at the conclusion that Christ 
was born on the same day of the year as that 
on which the sun was created. Apparently 
others in this early period thought that the 
twenty-fifth of March was the date. But this 
discrepancy of a few days is not important. 

i Duchesne, Christian Worship, 261 ff.; Kirsopp Lake 
in E. R. E., HI. 601 ff. 


Subsequently, it has been claimed, the date of 
the birth was shifted from the twenty-eighth 
or twenty-fifth of March to the twenty-fifth 
of December as a result of the belief that while 
the March date marked the conception in a 
sense the beginning of the Incarnation of 
Jesus, the birth took place nine months later. 
On the basis of this argument the fact that the 
date of Christ's birth falls on the same day as 
the festival of "the Unconquerable Sun" is 
said to be an accident. But this is hardly a 
satisfactory explanation. The identity of date 
is more than a coincidence. To be sure the 
Church did not merely appropriate the festival 
of the popular sun-god. It was through a 
parallelism between Christ and the sun that 
the twenty-fifth of December came to be the 
date of the nativity. That an equation be- 
tween the two had been instituted at a period 
earlier than any celebration of the nativity we 
know from the De pascha computus referred to 
above. Indeed the most significant element in 
that document is just this parallelism. Once 
the equation had been made, the appropriate- 
ness of selecting for the commemoration of the 
nativity that day on which the power of the 
sun began to increase was obvious enough. 


Even Epiphanius, 2 the fourth century metro- 
politan of Cyprus, though giving the sixth of 
January as the date of birth, connects the event 
with the solstice. Moreover, the diversion of 
the significance of a popular pagan holiday was 
wholly in accord with the policy of the Church. 
Of the actual celebration of a festival of the 
nativity, it should be added, there is no satis- 
factory evidence earlier than the fourth cen- 
tury. Its first observance in Rome on De- 
cember the twenty-fifth took place in 353 or 
354 (Usener) or in 336 (Duchesne). In Con- 
stantinople it seems to have been introduced in 
377 or 378. 


ANOTHER trace of ancient sun-worship may 
possibly be found in southern Italy in the cult 
of St. Elias. Those who favor this theory point 
to the wheel which appears in some representa- 
tions of the Saint. They see in it an inheritance 
from the chariot of the Greek sun-god Helius. 

2 ffaer. LI. 22. 3-11 (ed, Holl): "The birth of our 
Lord Jesus Christ, or the perfect incarnation, which is 
called Epiphany, took place thirteen days after the begin- 
ning of the increase of light. For it was necessary that 
this also be a type of the number of our Lord Jesus Christ 
himself and of his twelve apostles, which filled up the 
number of the thirteen days of the increase of the light." 



There may be something in this contention. 
There is, moreover, some degree of similarity 
in the names Elias and Helius. On the whole, 
however, it seems likely that any connection 
with Helius that may be found here is distinctly 
subordinate to the influence of the story of the 
Hebrew prophet Elijah whose chariot of fire 
furnishes quite as satisfactory a prototype for 
the symbolism of St. Elias as the chariot of the 
sun-god. 3 

3 See Hyde's discussion of St. Elias and Helius in Greek 
Religion and Its Survivals, 78-80. 


A A RULE the ancient Romans stood 
while praying, as we know from many 
passages in Latin authors. And while 
there is evidence to show that kneeling was 
an old Italic practice, it seems probable that 
in historic times worshippers knelt only when 
the occasion was one of such urgency as to 
call for a special demonstration of humility 
and self-abandonment. It is also undoubtedly 
true that the increase in the influence of the 
cults imported from Greece and the Orient 
tended to make the practice more common. In 
the ceremony of the supplicatio , for example, a 
rite of Greek origin, the women knelt before 
the statues of the gods. We hear also of cases 
where worshippers beat their heads against the 
door-posts of temples, or wholly prostrated 
themselves, sweeping altars or the floor of tem- 
ples with their hair. 

During his enunciation of the prayer it was 
usual for the worshipper to raise his hands to 
heaven, and there are sepulchral inscriptions 


containing reliefs that show raised hands and 
open palms. On some occasions, however, the 
procedure was different and it was essential 
that the one praying should touch the altar with 
his hands. This contact with the sacred ob- 
ject was believed to intensify the coercive 
efficacy of the prayer upon the god. 

The Romans said grace before dinner; * and 
there was at least a silent grace when after the 
dinner proper, before the dessert was served, 
parts of the food were offered to the household 
gods. Before the banquet at Anchises 7 tomb 
Aeneas made libations and addressed his 
father's spirit. 2 

Closely connected with prayer in the minds 
of the Romans was adoration (adoratio). This 
was sometimes a preliminary to prayer but was 
practiced on many occasions when no prayers 
were said. It consisted in placing the right 
hand upon the mouth (ad or a) as one stood 
before or passed by a temple or altar or statue. 
In ancient times indeed to throw a kiss to a 
deity was a sufficiently solemn bit of ceremonial 
practice. Nor was the kiss always thrown. 

1 Quint., Decl., 301, p. 187, Ritter: Invitavi ad cenam 
. venisti . . . et adisti mensam, ad quam cum venire 

coepimus, deos invocamus. 

2 Aeneid, V. 77 ff. 


Cicero tells us of a statue of Hercules at Agri- 
gentum whose mouth and chin were worn away 
by the kisses of devotees. 3 A passage in Lu- 
cretius 4 probably refers to something similar. 
The practice was not of course distinctively 
Roman. The Greeks kissed sacred objects con- 
nected with some of their cults and the Arabs 
seem to have done the same from early times. 

The forms of adoration developed in the cult 
of the emperors were chiefly of Persian origin. 
Not only bowing and genuflexion were cus- 
tomary, but kissing the robe, hand, foot, or knee 
of the emperor became common. And while 
these practices were more definitely established 
from the time of Diocletian, some of the previ- 
ous emperors, for example Caligula and Ela- 
gabalus, had encouraged them. 

Christian customs in prayer have undoubt- 
edly been influenced by the pagan usages just 
mentioned. Here, however, as in so many 
other instances, we must guard against the as- 
sumption of an exclusively pagan source. 

3 Verr., TV. 43. 94. 

4 I. 317. Merrill, however, in his note on the passage, 
expresses the opinion that the reference is not to kissing but 
to touching the hands of statues. 




THAT the early Christians stood while praying 
seems to be established from the pictures of 
persons praying (orantes) in the catacombs, 
and one cannot but feel that the Roman prac- 
tice of standing during prayer has played some 
part in the determination of this attitude. On 
the other hand we must recognize the proba- 
bility of Semitic influence, for the Hebrews 
stood when they prayed and Christ himself 
prayed standing. This posture still continues 
in the Lutheran Church and until recent times 
was usual among the Presbyterians. 

The gesture of the raised hands found on 
Roman tombstones is reproduced in churches 
and tombs of the middle ages. 5 

The data available seem to indicate that the 
first Christians, like their pagan contempora- 
ries, practiced kneeling only on occasions of 
unusual emotional stress. To be sure we are 
told in Acts 6 that both Peter and Paul knelt 
in prayer, and as the Acts were probably writ- 
ten about A.D. 80, this statement is of some 
significance for the custom at least in the latter 

5 Evans in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, VII, 47 

6 940, 20.36, 21.5. Cf. Ephes., 3-14; PMt-> 2 -i- 



part of the first century. But there is no defi- 
nite evidence at hand to prove satisfactorily 
that this was the prevailing practice. The full 
development of the custom of kneeling in prayer 
came with the organization of the Protes- 
tant churches after the Reformation. In the 
Catholic Church it has always, to some extent 
at least, involved the idea of penitence or urgent 


THE custom of saying grace at meals was so 
widely extended among the peoples who formed 
the milieu in which Christianity developed (for 
it was usual among the Greeks and Hebrews 
as well as among the Romans) that its continu- 
ance by the early Christians was inevitable. 
They had the institution indeed from the begin- 
ning. On the occasion of the feeding of the 
five thousand Jesus kissed the loaves and fishes 
and in the account of the miracle of the four 
thousand we are told that He gave thanks. 
There are numerous references to the custom 
in the writings of the Church fathers. 7 

7 E. R. E., VI. 372. 




OF THE ancient custom of kissing sacred ob- 
jects there are some survivals in our own time. 
The foot of the bronze statue of St. Peter in 
his basilica in Rome shows the attrition result- 
ing from the kisses of countless worshippers. 
The rings of cardinals and the foot of the Pope 
are kissed by the devout. The kissing of the 
Bible in taking an oath is an obvious survival 
of this pagan practice. While these examples 
are in all probability immediately derived 
from Graeco-Roman culture, they may ulti- 
mately go back to some Oriental source. 
The tradition has indeed survived in the East 
as well as in Europe. The black stone of 
Mecca has been worn smooth by the kisses of 
countless generations of faithful Mohamme- 
dans, and this may reasonably be regarded as a 
survival of some earlier rite. 



THE ROMANS offered gifts of various 
kinds in honor of their gods, such as 
garlands, incense, lights, first-fruits, 
and cakes. They practiced animal-sacrifice 
extensively, and held sacramental meals 
through which they entered into communion 
with the gods. As examples of such meals may 
be mentioned the one celebrated on the Alban 
Mount on the occasion of the Latin Festival, 
when the delegates of the peoples belonging to 
the League participated in a meal in honor of 
Jupiter of the Latins (luppiter Latiaris) and 
by eating parts of the sacrificial victim entered 
into communion with him. Of a similar char- 
acter were the sacramental banquets to Jove 
held during the Ludi Romani and the Ludi 
Plebeii on the Ides of September and Novem- 
ber respectively. Mars and Silvanus were also 
honored in this way; and at the Feast of Ovens 
(Fornacalia), held in February, the gods were 
believed to participate in the meal that was 
given. A common meal formed part of the 



ceremonies of the Arval Brothers. Meals were 
also held in connection with the festivals of the 
Parilia and Terminalia but the data are inade- 
quate to enable us to determine whether they 
were of a sacramental character or not. In 
domestic worship the practice of offering to 
the spirits of the household pieces of food from 
the table indicates the belief that they were 
present at the meal. Some scholars have 
thought that these sacramental meals are the 
oldest form of Roman sacrifice. However that 
may be, they are undoubtedly of great an- 

Sacrifices were often made in expiation of 
some offence. Any one who had violated the 
sacred law (ius dlmnum) could re-establish 
friendly relations with the gods only by mak- 
ing an expiatory sacrifice. Violations of this 
law generally took the form of neglect or faulty 
performance of some sacred rite. Acts of 
penance for " sins " in our sense of the term 
played no part in the old Roman religion. 
They do, however, appear in connection with 
some of the foreign cults that established them- 
selves among the Romans. It is probable that 
the idea was familiar to those under the influ- 
ence of Orphic teaching, although we have no 


detailed knowledge of the extent of Orphic in- 
fluence. In the case of the cult of Isis, however, 
we know of the existence of the practice from 
Juvenal's * account of the women who were dev- 
otees of the goddess. 

For expiatory sacrifices connected with the 
use of iron, see page 219. 

Many offerings were made in fulfilment of 
vows (ex voto), which were common in both 
private and public life. The things vowed and, 
if the prayer were answered, subsequently dedi- 
cated to the god were of infinite variety, rang- 
ing from small objects of little intrinsic value to 
altars, shrines, and temples. It was customary 
for one depositing his offering in a temple to 
hang up there a tablet commemorating the cir- 
cumstances of the vow. Horace 2 speaks of the 
person who having escaped shipwreck hung up 
the clothes he had worn, accompanied by a 
votive tablet to the god of the sea. A tablet of 
this kind on which was painted a picture of the 
event sometimes itself constituted the offering, 
and it is apparently to such paintings in temples 
of Isis that Tibullus and Juvenal allude. 3 

Cakes appear frequently in Roman ritual. 

1 VI. 522ff. 

2 Od., I. 5- 13-16. Cf. Sat., II. i. 33 and A. P., 20. 

3 1.3.28; Sat.,Xtt. 28. 



They are mentioned as offerings at the festival 
of the Liberalia 4 in March, at the Parilia 5 in 
April, at the Matralia 6 and the feast of Sum- 
manus in June, at the Feriae Sementivae (Pa- 
ganalia) in January, and at the Fornacalia, 
Lupercalia, and Terminalia in February. In 
domestic worship also they had their place, and 
reference has already been made to the custom 
of making an offering to the household gods 
during dinner by throwing into the hearth-fire 
or placing on a movable altar a piece of the 
sacred salt-cake (mold salsa}. Cakes in phal- 
lic shapes are also mentioned. 7 

Oil and honey were among the ingredients of 
the cakes used at the Liberalia, and Ovid gives 
us an interesting picture of the scene on the 
streets of Rome where old women who were 
called priestesses of Liber (sacerdotes Liberi) 
sold the cakes to passers-by. At every sale 
the vendor would break off a piece of the cake 
and offer it on a little altar that stood by her 
side. The sale seems to have been brisk, as 
well it might be when the purchaser got a cake 
and a hope of divine aid, all for a penny. The 

4 Ovid, Fast., III. 725, 
* IbM., IV. 743- 
6 Ibid., VI. 482. 
^ Martial, XIV. 69. 



cakes offered at the Parilia were of millet. 
Those used at the Matralia (liba tosta) were 
not baked but cooked in earthenware of a very 
primitive type. The cakes of wheat (far) of- 
fered at the Fornacalia were also made by some 
traditional process of great antiquity. Of es- 
pecial interest are the cakes (liba farinacea) 
offered at the festival of Summanus, which were 
made in wheel-shaped moulds. And in this 
connection we should consider the moulds for 
sacred cakes described by Sir Arthur Evans in 
his article on " Recent Discoveries of Tarentine 
Terra-cottas." 8 That the objects he mentions 
arfe cake-moulds seems clear from the evi- 
dence he adduces, and we find on them, besides 
symbols of several gods, wheel and cross im- 
pressions. Moreover, some of the moulds are 
divided into segments and Evans plausibly 
suggests that the cakes were made in this way 
in order to facilitate distribution. In the 
British Museum also there are representations 
of round cakes, apparently used as offerings, 
which are divided into four parts, like the 
loaves found at Pompeii. 

In the instances mentioned above the cakes 
themselves constituted the offerings. In other 

8 The Journal of Hellenic Studies, VII, 44 ff. (1886). 


cases they were merely a concomitant of sacri- 
fice. For example, pieces of sacred salt-cake 
(mold salsa) were regularly thrown on the 
head of the victim at a sacrifice. The head 
of the October Horse was decked with cakes 
before its immolation. A similar decoration 
appears on an occasion other than that of sac- 
rifice in the case of the donkeys at the celebra- 
tion of the festival of Vesta in June. The 
animals were probably so adorned because 
they turned the mills that ground the grain 
from which the bread was made. 

A different use of cake in ritual is seen in 
the eating of the cake of far (libum farreum) 
by the bride and bride-groom at the ancient 
patrician marriage rite of confarreatio. The 
importance of this part of the ceremony is 
shown by the fact that it is from it that the 
name of the whole ceremony is derived. It 
seems to have been regarded as a sacrament 
through which the participating parties entered 
into a sort of communion with the god, called 
in this connection luppiter Farreus. 

Only certain priests could officiate at the 
various acts of sacrifice, and membership in 
the priestly colleges generally involved the ful- 
filment of many conditions and sometimes the 


imposition of troublesome taboos. There were 
eleven colleges or organizations of priests, some 
of which included two or more groups. The 
higher magistrates also had sacerdotal powers; 
and in domestic religious services the head of 
the household (paterfamilias) officiated. It 
should be observed, however, that with some 
notable exceptions like the Vestals, a priestly 
office was not a full-time appointment. Mem- 
bership in a priesthood did not exclude 
one from the ordinary activities of private 
or political life. On the other hand the 
priests of the Greek or Oriental cults adopted 
by the Romans frequently had no other 
occupation than that of the service of their 

But it was not only the personnel of the 
priesthoods that was subject to strict regula- 
tions. Every detail in the ceremony of sacri- 
fice must conform to sacerdotal prescription. 
Only those who were ceremonially clean could 
perform the act of sacrifice. Moreover, any 
divergence from the recognized ritual, any 
error on the part of the priest, any word or 
occurrence of ill-omen during the ceremony 
vitiated the sacrifice and involved the neces- 
sity of its repetition. It was probably to pre- 


vent the person officiating from hearing sounds 
of evil omen that his head was veiled, 

Of these pagan ideas of sacrifice; some traces 
still exist: 


CANDLES are burned in Catholic Churches in 
honor of saints or the Virgin Mary. 


THE sacrifice of the Eucharist as celebrated in 
the Greek and Roman churches involves some 
of the beliefs inherent in the sacred meals 
mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, through 
which the pagan worshippers believed that they 
established communion with their gods. The 
Eucharist, however, cannot be said to be a di- 
rect descendant of any or all of the Roman 
sacramental meals. The evidence seems to in- 
dicate that the institution of the Last Supper 
was of Jewish origin, and was merely com- 
memorative. On the other hand it seems prob- 
able that in the course of the centuries of 
conflict, under the influence not only of the 
conceptions implicit in the sacred meals of the 
Romans but also of those of Oriental cults like 
Mithraism, the sacramental idea of communion 
with God was more and more developed till it 


finally crystallized in the doctrine of transub- 
stantiation. To attempt to specify a single 
source for this dogma is idle. The idea of en- 
tering into communion with gods through par- 
ticipating in meals at which they are believed 
to be present or through eating parts of victims 
which, having been sacrificed to them, are 
thought in a sense to be identified with them, 
may be found in the religions of many peoples. 
The records of anthropologists and students of 
comparative religion show how prevalent the 
idea of " eating the god " has been throughout 
the history of cults. 9 


OF THE expiatory practices of early Roman 
religion there are no specific survivals in mod- 
ern times, for the whole conception of what 
constitutes an offense to deity has changed. 
But on the other hand, while there is no spe- 
cific survival, it can hardly be doubted that the 
rigid training which Romans received in the 
exact fulfilment of ritual requirements con- 
tributed substantially to the formation of a 
habit of mind that must needs continue to seek 
forgiveness for anything offensive in the sight 
9 Frazer, G. B. f VIII. 48 ff. 



of God, even though the nature of the offense 
should be something wholly different. The 
maintenance of satisfactory relations with the 
divine powers what the Romans called pax 
deorum was an essential of pagan piety; it 
is also a large part of contemporary piety. 

Of expiatory offerings or ceremonies in the 
foreign cults something more similar to sur- 
vival may be found. For if we may assume 
that the Orphic propagandists of lower grade 
continued in Italy that traffic in remission of 
sins which Plato condemned, we have here a 
fore-shadowing of the abuse in indulgences 
which has so often been made the basis of at- 
tacks on the Catholic Church. Whatever the 
facts may be in regard to Orphic practice in 
Italy, there is no doubt about the matter so 
far as the priests of Isis are concerned. For 
Juvenal in the passage cited above represents 
an Egyptian priest as promising a woman that 
Osiris will grant her indulgence (veniam) for 
her son, if her bribe be adequate. The question 
of course arises whether this was a recognized 
part of the Isiac cult or whether it was merely 
a case of a delinquent priest. We have not suf- 
ficient data to decide definitely. That there 
were some excellent ethical elements in the 


Egyptian cult we know from various passages 
in Latin writers; 10 but it is equally true that 
many of the priests were unscrupulous. In the 
same way every one who has even a slight 
knowledge of Roman Catholic doctrine knows 
that the Church does not sell indulgences and 
that her Councils have taken all kinds of pre- 
caution to prevent the abuse of them; but yet 
it is equally certain that in the long history of 
indulgences unscrupulous priests often have 
sold them. 


OF THE pagan practice of affixing votive tab- 
lets to the walls of temples we have many sur- 
vivals in the churches of Italy and other Catho- 
lic countries. At the fair held in connection 
with the feast of SS. Cosma and Damiano at 
Isernia in the Abruzzi many wax ex-votos were 
sold to the devout and deposited by them in 
the church. 11 And just as temples were often 
erected by the Romans in fulfilment of vows, 
so in modern times votive churches have been 
built. One example is furnished by the Church 
of St. Gennaro in Naples, which was vowed at 
the time of a plague; 12 another is the Church 

10 For example, Tibullus, I. 3. 25; Juvenal, XIII. 92. 

11 See under Phallicism, page 76. 

12 Trede, op. at., I. 21. 


of San Paolo in the same city, which was built 
by King Ferdinand early in the nineteenth cen- 
tury in accordance with a vow, 13 


IT SEEMS probable that some of the Roman 
customs connected with sacred cakes have sur- 
vived. For example, the hot cross buns that 
we eat on Good Friday have an obvious affilia- 
tion with the sacred cakes made in such moulds 
as those found at Tarentum. Again, the Simnel 
cakes eaten on Mid-lent Sunday are stamped 
with the figure of Christ or the Virgin Mary, 
replacing in all probability representations or 
symbols of pagan divinities. The marking of 
segments on some of the cakes used on festi- 
vals of the Christian year, as for example on 
Twelfth Day, certainly suggests the idea of dis- 
tribution which has been mentioned as the 
probable reason for the dividing lines on the 
sacred cakes of the ancients. In the case of 
Twelfth cakes there seems to have been a part 
for every person in the house and for Christ, 
the Virgin, and the wise men from the East as 
well. And it is not too far a call to trace back 
to the sacred cake of the conf arreate marriage 

Ibid., I. 22. 


in Rome the importance of the wedding-cake 
in modern marriage. 

Nor did the custom of offering cake or bread 
as sacrifice pass away with paganism. We are 
told 14 that in Franconia persons entering a for- 
est make an offering of bread to the spirit of 
the woods ; and that in Bohemia bread is thrown 
into a stream in which a man has been drowned. 
In Devonshire offerings of pieces of cake, ac- 
companied by libations of cider, used to be 
made to the trees in the orchards. 15 


OF THE Roman regulations covering the per- 
sonnel of the priestly colleges, of their numer- 
ous prescriptions in regard to the ceremonial 
cleanliness of those engaged in sacred offices, 
and of the stress laid upon the performance 
of sacrifices in exact conformity with ritual re- 
quirements there are doubtless traces in the em- 
phasis laid on the importance of form and ritual 
in some of our modern ecclesiastical systems. 
They have survived even where the sacrifices 
that once formed the most notable occasions for 
their manifestation have passed away. 

14 Tylor, Primitive Culture, II. 195, 369. 

15 Chambers, Book of Days, I. 62-3; Brand, op. dt. y 
I. 29 ff.; MacCulloch, E. R. E. } III. 60. 




EFERENCE has already been made 
to the survival of Roman ceremonial 
processions in modern festivals of 
saints (see page 13), in marriage rites (page 
33), in country-side " beating of the bounds " 
(pages 49 ff.), and in funerals (page 89). There 
was also the ceremony of the Amburbium, con- 
sisting of a procession around the bounds of 
the city with a view to its lustration and held 
annually on or about the second of February. 
One or two other examples may be mentioned. 
One of the spectacular ceremonies which the 
Romans adopted under Greek influence was the 
Supplication (supplicatio) . It was resorted to 
in times of national danger or of public thanks- 
giving. The whole populace, both men and 
women, wearing garlands and carrying laurel- 
branches in their hands, took part under the 
direction of the priests in a procession that 



passed from temple to temple through the 
streets of Rome. If the occasion were one of 
national peril, the men made offerings of wine 
and incense at each temple where there was a 
pause, while the women, with hair down, knelt 
before the altars in supplication. If the occa- 
sion were a joyful one, prayers of thanksgiving 
and praise took the place of the petitions for 
divine aid. 

We hear also of a processional rite first cele- 
brated in 207 B.C. in expiation of an alarming 
prodigy. A choir of twenty-seven young 
women, accompanied by the members of the 
priestly College of Ten, marched from the 
temple of Apollo outside the Porta Carmen- 
talis to the temple of Juno Regina on the 
Aventine. Pausing in the Forum they sang 
in honor of Juno a hymn which Livius Androni- 
cus, one of the earliest of Latin poets, had 
composed. Other processions of girls are re- 
corded, and it is to this type that the proces- 
sion of twenty-seven boys and twenty-seven 
girls who sang Horace's Carmen Saeculare 

There was, moreover, a ceremony of prayer 
for rain of which a procession was a notable 
feature. For in time of drought, at the bidding 



of the Pontiffs, the matrons with bare feet and 
flowing hair and the magistrates without the 
insignia of their office marched in procession 
through the city and prayed to Jupiter for 
rain, 1 

To these processions ordained on special oc- 
casions we see a striking resemblance in those 
processiones extraordinariae of the Rituale 
Romanum, either enjoined in time of war, 
plague, famine or in quacumque tribulatione, 
or ordered as a form of thanksgiving. 2 




CONNECTED with the procession in ancient 
times was the dance. In some ceremonies 
the two were combined as in the parade of the 
Salii, the priests of Mars. For when in the 
month of March the Salii, equipped as war- 
riors, with shield in left hand and spear or staff 
in right, passed through the streets of Rome, 
they paused at various places and danced, 
striking their shield with the staff and singing 
their archaic song to Mars, the great spirit to 

1 Petronius, Cen. Trimakh., 44. 

2 H. Thurston in C. E, t under " Processions," XII. 447. 



whose power the quickening of vegetation in 
the spring was ascribed. Whether the leaping 
and dancing was supposed to accelerate the 
springing up of the crops as Frazer 8 has sug- 
gested or whether the clatter of the shields was 
intended to frighten away evil spirits who 
might injure the produce of the fields, it is 
hardly possible to say. There are, however, as 
every one will remember, plenty of parallels 
for the belief in the efficacy of noisy demon- 
strations in driving off mischief -making demons. 

The dance appears in other forms of Roman 
ritual. The Arval Brothers danced as they 
chanted their song to Mars. The girl-choir 
referred to above accompanied their hymn to 
Juno with dance movements. Moreover, 
dances were characteristic of the cult of sev- 
eral of the foreign gods introduced into Rome, 
as for example, the Greek Bacchus, the 
Phrygian Cybele, the Cappadocian Ma- 
Bellona, and the Egyptian Isis. 

The early Christians also recognized danc- 
ing as a form of worship. It is well-known that 
in the days of the primitive Church both bish- 
ops and people took part in dances before the 
tombs of martyrs and in churches. And there 

3 G. B., II. 210. 



is evidence that the ordinance of A.D. 692 for- 
bidding the practice, was not successfully en- 
forced. It is attested that even in the eight- 
eenth century French priests in the provinces 
led sacred dances on saints' days. 4 

That any of the pagan Roman dances re- 
ferred to contributed directly to the institution 
of the sacred dance among the Christians can- 
not be maintained. There is much more likeli- 
hood of direct influence from Jewish sources. 
The Jews, we know, practiced the sacred dance. 
David, to quote the most familiar example, 
" danced before the Ark," and we may be sure 
that his act was of religious significance, 
whether the idea was that of "moving" the 
god or something else. But while we cannot 
ascribe any direct influence to the Roman 
dances, it is equally obvious that they played 
their part in familiarizing the people with this 
form of sacred act and contributed indirectly 
to the establishment of the idea that dance- 
movements were an acceptable form of 
religious devotion. 

4 Saturday Review, 1896, 52. 



A1ONG the Romans, seers known as 
haruspices divined the future by the 
examination and interpretation of the 
internal organs of sacrificial victims. These 
seers had originally been summoned from Etru- 
ria on special occasions but by the time of the 
Emperor Claudius a college of Roman harus- 
pices had been organized. 

They specialized in liver-lore, and to the 
importance they assigned this organ may be 
traced that belief in its magic powers that we 
find in the Middle Ages and in much later times. 
Mediaeval writers, for example, refer to the 
superstition that eating the liver of a goat en- 
abled one to see in the dark. Vesalius speaks 
of the spirit that came from the liver. And the 
witches in Macbeth used the liver of a Jew 
in one of their magical concoctions. Supersti- 
tious Italians today believe that one may 
obtain magical power by eating a human 



Analogous to divination by the liver is the 
reading of bones of animals, especially the 
shoulder-blade of lambs and kids, so common 
in Macedonia and Albania today. 1 While this 
is not derived from the Etruscan or Roman 
liver-practice, it obviously had its origin in a 
similar attitude of mind. It survives in Eng- 
land in the reading of the speal-bone. Possibly 
here belongs also our use of the wishing-bone 
of a chicken, and the " merry thought" to 
which the person who gets the larger part is 
entitled. 2 


THE flight and notes of birds constituted an 
important part of the Roman augural system, 
and many modern superstitions connected with 
birds may be traced in part at least to Roman 
times. The geese that are kept in the precinct 
of the cathedral in Barcelona inevitably sug- 
gest the sacred geese of the temple of Juno 
Moneta on the Arx in ancient Rome. The 
hooting of owls, the croaking of ravens, the 
chattering of magpies have their significance 
for the superstitious in modern as in pagan 

1 Abbott, Macedonian Folklore, 96 ff. 

2 Wood-Martin, Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland, 
II. 141. 



times. A sixth-century divining-rod, adorned 
with figures of birds, has been found near 
Ballymoney in County Antrim. 3 Our saying 
" A little bird has told me " finds its ultimate 
source in the ancient systems of bird-lore. 


THE occurrence of an earthquake was almost 
universally regarded as a portent by the Ro- 
mans as well as by many other peoples of 
ancient times. And there was sporadic expres- 
sion of this old superstition among the illiterate 
on the occasion of the seismic disturbances in 
California in 1906. 


FURTHER, astrology appealed to many Ro- 
mans. The attacks made on astrologers by 
Cato the Elder are a matter of record, and in 
139 B.C. the feeling against them was so strong 
that they were banished from Italy by sena- 
torial decree. But the law of exclusion was 
probably not enforced long. At any rate they 
were active in Rome in the beginning of the 
first century and their influence increased from 
that time. More and more persons believed 

3 Wood-Martin, ibid., II. 143. 



that the aspect of the heavens at the moment 
of their birth determined the events of their 
life. The general belief that Nigidius Figulus 
had successfully prophesied the career of 
Augustus by casting his horoscope undoubt- 
edly had enormous influence in increasing the 
vogue of astrologers. Their art flourished all 
over the Empire. 

These ideas were current in the early days 
of Christianity, flourished for a thousand years 
afterwards and have not entirely disappeared 
in modern times. When St. Matthew recorded 
the star in the east he was conforming to a 
widespread belief among both the Jews and 
the Gentiles of the period. In the Middle Ages 
the list of portents eclipses of the sun and 
moon, spots on the sun, etc. that warned the 
world of the impending death of Charlemagne 
inevitably reminds one of those lists of prodi- 
gies that appear so often in Livy's history of 
Rome. A French author, Pierre Bayle, 4 writing 
in the seventeenth century, protests against the 
superstitious ideas which many of his contem- 
poraries had in regard to comets and eclipses. 
Of the part once played by astrology in popular 
belief we have relics in such English words as 

4 Pensfas diverses a Voccasion de la comete de 1680. 



jovial, martial, and saturnine. Moreover, 
newspapers still publish " daily horoscopes." 


OF THE Roman practice of divining by water 
(hydromantla) , of which St. Augustine 5 gives 
us an account, traces may still be found in the 
modern pretense of reading the future in tea 
leaves or coffee grounds. With us this is a mild 
form of afternoon-tea jesting, but the serious- 
ness with which it was sometimes taken as late 
as the eighteenth century may be seen from 
the reference to the subject in the Gentleman's 
Magazine for March, 1731. 


ORACLES also were frequently consulted by the 
Romans in times of doubt or danger. Espe- 
cially famous were the Sibylline verses, which 
were brought to Rome from Cumae in Cam- 
pania toward the end of the regal period and 
deposited in the Capitoline temple of Jupiter. 
The Roman historians record many occasions 
on which the college of priests in charge of 
them was ordered by the Senate to search them 
for guidance. They played an important part 

5 De tivitate Dei, VII. 35. 



in the religious life of Rome and it was only 
in the fifth century after Christ that they were 
destroyed. There were other oracles in Italy 
also and we hear with special frequency of 
the lots (sortes) of the temple of Fortune in 
Praeneste. These consisted of small inscribed 
tablets or tokens of more of less general or 
ambiguous content in the interpretation of 
which the persons concerned had considerable 
range. The Romans consulted foreign oracles 
also, such as that of Apollo at Delphi and Zeus 
at Dodona. 

Another way of reading the future was divi- 
nation by books (rhapsodomancy). One 
would open a book at hazard and the first line 
the eye lighted on was regarded as an oracle. 
Homer was so used (sortes Homericae*) and, 
according to Bouche-Leclercq, Hesiod also. 
VirgiPs works were frequently employed in 
this way from the time of Hadrian (sortes 

The early Christians seem to have believed 
in oracles as much as their pagan contempo- 
raries. Their explanation of them, however, 
was different. They regarded them as the in- 
struments of evil demons, as we see from the 

6 See Pease in note on Cicero, De. div., I. 12. 



statements of Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine. 
At any rate these writers show no signs of be- 
lieving that the oracles were manipulated by 
trickery. Some of the Christians thought that 
the Sibylline oracles had foreshadowed the 
coming of Christ, nor do they anywhere hint 
that such of these oracles as might bear this 
interpretation could have been inserted in the 
collection by some Christian whose honesty had 
yielded to the urge of his piety. Even a Chris- 
tian emperor like Theodosius consulted pagan 
oracles and the extent to which the old prac- 
tice was continued is shown by the number of 
prohibitory laws passed from the time of Theo- 
dosius to that of Justinian. In general, how- 
ever, the policy of the Christians was to sub- 
stitute oracles of their own for those of pagan 
origin. Intead of oracles connected with the 
shrine of some pagan god or demi-god we find 
oracles attached to the church or tomb of a 
saint. The Praenestine and the Virgilian lots 
yielded place to the lots of the Saints (sortes 
Sanctorum}. A Bible would be placed on a 
saint's tomb and opened, and the first verse 
which one saw was accepted as a divine sign. 
Not that the use of Virgil's writings as oracles 
passed away entirely. Christians of the Middle 


Ages sometimes sought guidance in them and 
Pease T cites an interesting example of survival 
in much later times. He tells us that King 
Charles I of England consulted Virgil in this 


THE pagan belief in the validity of visions seen 
in dreams and trances recurs in a number of 
passages in the New Testament. St. Matthew 8 
tells us of the dreams of Joseph and of Pilate's 
wife. In Acts 9 we hear of the trances of Peter 
and Paul, 


IN BRIEF, while the Christian attitude toward 
divination of all sorts may have been affected 
in some degree by considerations of policy 
for any religious system that eliminated oracles 
and other supernatural manifestations would 
have suffered in that era of religious com- 
petition the chief element in the situation 
seems to have been a genuine belief in the 
efficacy of supernatural signs. It is a belief of 

7 Loc. cit. 

8 i. 20; 2. 12, 13, 22; 27. 19. 

9 10. 10; 22. 17. Cf. II Cor., 12. 2. 



unusual durability. Trede tells us of the pres- 
tige enjoyed in high places by the prophetess 
who truthfully foretold the return of Pope Pio 
Nono to Rome after his flight in 1849. Nor 
even in our own day are prophets and signs 
wholly without honor among some classes of 






A /THOUGH temples of Roman or 
Graeco-Roman gods were frequently 
appropriated by the Christians and 
used as churches, their architectural plan had 
little or no influence on the form of the Chris- 
tian church. The origin of the latter has been 
a subject of controversy for a long time, but 
now appears to be solved. This solution, how- 
ever, is not to be found in the current theory 
that the Christian basilica is a development of 
the plan of the Roman house, either of the 
front part with its recess (tablinum) and cen- 
tral space (atrium), or of the inner part (peri- 
stylum) with its recess (exedra) and large open 
area with colonnades on either side. 1 The 
right explanation was first suggested by Ga- 

1 Lowrie, Christian Art and Archaeology, 94-101 ; Hoi- 
born in E. R. E., I. 697. 



briel Leroux, 2 who pointed out that the type 
of the Christian basilica goes back to the sanc- 
tuaries used by the adherents of oriental cults. 
As Bagnani 8 has shown, this theory seems 
confirmed by the discovery in 1917 of the 
subterranean basilica just outside the Porta 
Maggiore in Rome. A glance at its plan with 
atrium at the entrance, central hall and apse, 
must bring home to every one the degree to 
which it reveals the chief characteristics of the 
early Christian churches. The presence of the 
atrium is especially convincing. Bagnani aptly 
compares this subterranean basilica with the 
sanctuary of Mithras found under the garden 
of the Baths of Caracalla, which with its ves- 
tibule and columns supporting a vault offers 
distinct points of resemblance. It is difficult 
to date the sanctuary at the Porta Maggiore. 
It may belong to the end of the first century. 
Nor do we know what cult was practiced there, 
although the stucco decorations make it clear 
that the immortality of the soul was one of 
its chief tenets. That it was one of the 
oriental mystery religions seems probable. 

2 Exploration arch&ologique de Delos, II: " La salle 

3 The Journal of Roman Studies, IX, 78-85 (1919). 



Cumont, 4 however, thinks that it was the meet- 
ing place of a Neopythagorean sect. 


VITRUVIUS 5 tells us that the Romans built 
their temples to face west so that the person 
standing before the altar would look east; and 
in such a system of orientation one might plaus- 
ibly see the origin of the common plan of build- 
ing churches with doors at the west end and 
altar at the east. But what we have learned 
from excavations in regard to the sites of 
Roman temples does not tend to confirm Vitru- 
vius' statement. Assuredly if the Romans had 
such a rule as that indicated by him they 
regarded it as one more honored in the breach 
than in the observance. As a matter of fact it 
is extremely difficult to demonstrate any plan 
of orientation for Roman temples. Even Nis- 
sen's 6 elaborate theory that the orientation of 

4 Rassegna d'arte antica e moderna, XXI. 37-44. 

6 IV. 5: aedis signumque . . . spectet ad vespertinam 
caeli regionem, uti qui adierint ad aram . . . spectent ad 
partem caeli orientis et simulacrum. Hyginus, De Urn. 
const. (I. p. 169 in edition of Agrimensores by Blume, Lach- 
mann and RudorS), says something of the same kind but 
confines the practice to the earlier period. 

6 Templum, 162; also in Rhein. Mus., XXVIII. 513-575 
XXIX. 369-433; XL. 38-65, 329-70; XLII. 28-61; and 
in Orientation, 298 ff. See Wissowa's note, R. u. K., 472 A 1 . 

r loo i 


a temple was determined by the position of the 
rising sun on the day of the foundation is con- 
fronted by many difficulties. 

We seem to be on surer ground when we 
turn to the Greek and Roman temples in Asia, 
for although there were notable exceptions, 
most of these had their door at the east end 
and the image of the god at the west. It has 
been claimed by some that the early Christians 
adopted this system and that the orientation 
of St. Peter's basilica in Rome goes back to this 
tradition. But whether the church with east 
door and west altar was the original one or 
not, it is quite certain that later the regular 
system of orientation was that with west door 
and east altar. This system established itself 
in the eastern Church earlier than in the west- 
ern. Indeed there is some probabilty that the 
western Church objected to it as too suggestive 
of the practice of the numerous sun-cults whose 
adherents turned to the rising sun in prayer 
and adoration. Finally, however, the western 
Church followed the example of the eastern 
and the orientation with west door and east 
altar became fairly general. 

What was the ultimate significance of this 
orientation? Was it due to the influence of 


sun-worship? Cults of the sun, as we know 
from many sources, had attained great vogue 
during the second, third, and fourth centuries. 
Sun-worshippers indeed formed one of the big 
groups in that religious world in which Chris- 
tianity was fighting for a place. Many of them 
became converts to Christianity and in all 
probability carried into their new religion some 
remnants of their old beliefs. The complaint 
of Pope Leo in the fifth century that worship- 
pers in St. Peter's turned away from the altar 
and faced the door so that they could adore 
the rising sun is not without its significance in 
regard to the number of Christians who at one 
time had been adherents of some form of 
sun-worship. It is of course impossible to say 
precisely in what way their influence mani- 
fested itself. We do know, however, of ana- 
logues between Christ and the sun; he was 
designated the Sun of Righteousness; and our 
Christmas falls on the date of the festival of 
a popular sun-god in Rome. 7 On the whole 
sun-worship seems to have been the chief in- 
fluence in determining the prevailing form of 
church-orientation. It was not however the 
sole influence. The sun-worshippers were not 

7 See pp. 150-53. 


the only ones who turned to the east in prayer. 
The Romans had done this even in the early 
days of their history, long before Oriental sun- 
cults had been introduced among them. This 
position is directly attested for the Master of 
the Arval Brothers, and many other examples 
might be cited. 8 It is reasonable to suppose 
that some of those Christians who were com- 
pared by Tertullian 9 to sun-worshippers be- 
cause they turned toward the east in prayer 
had never had any affiliations with sun-wor- 
ship, but in looking east were merely adhering 
to the old Roman ritual in which they had 
been brought up. 


THE Romans used to consecrate their temples 
and it was customary to hold a festival on the 
day of consecration. In a great many cases 
the festival had been celebrated prior to the 
building of the temple, but when under the in- 
fluence of Greek religion temples were erected, 
the dedication day of the temple was made to 
coincide with the date of the ancient festival of 

s See Aen., VIII. 68, XII. 172; Ov., Fast., IV. 777; Val. 
Place., Argon., III. 437. 
9 ApoL, 16. 



the god. By the act of consecration the temple 
became the possession of the divinity and any 
one who violated its sanctity was subject not 
to civil but to sacred law. Not only temples, 
but altars and statues were consecrated. 

While the custom of dedicating a temple and 
of holding a festival on the anniversary of the 
dedication is not confined to the Romans 
for the Jews consecrated the Temple in Jeru- 
salem and regularly celebrated the anniversary 
of the ceremony it seems probable that the 
Christian custom of consecrating churches is 
derived from the Romans. About the precise 
source of the Catholic form of consecration, 
however, there has been a good deal of discus- 
sion. The ceremony consists in the conse- 
crating priest's making a St. Andrew's cross 
on the pavement of the church by sprinkling 
ashes. This, according to some, goes back to 
the cross drawn by a Roman augur in marking 
out a temple. Others see in it a reminiscence 
of the methods of Roman surveyors but explain 
the cross as a representative of the initial letter 
of Christ's name in Greek ( X ) . 10 The plausibil- 
ity of this explanation of the cross does not 

10 de Rossi, Butt. arch, christ., 1881, 140; Duchesne, 
Christian Worship, 417. 



preclude the high probability of the act of con- 
secration as a whole being of Roman origin. 

Of the relation of Christian dedication-day 
celebrations to pagan festivities we have some 
records for England. 11 For when the Anglo- 
Saxons were converted to Christianity, Pope 
Gregory the Great instructed the abbott Melli- 
tus who had participated in the mission to the 
island, not to prohibit the pagan festivals but 
to tell the people to erect their booths around 
the temples which had now been turned into 
Christian churches and to celebrate the anni- 
versary of the dedication of the church or the 
birth of the martyr for whom it had been 
named. 12 The celebrations wakes, as they 
were called continued for centuries in Eng- 
land. When early in the seventeenth century 
an attempt was made to suppress them, King 
Charles I interfered and ordered their continu- 
ance. In the northern counties of England 
these feasts have not yet been abolished. The 
" Patron's Day " celebration in Ireland belongs 
to the same class of festival. 

" Brand, op. tit., II. 2 ff. 

12 Brand, ibid.: ut die dedicationis vel nataliciis sanc- 
torum martyrum, tabernacula sibi circa easdem ecclesias, 
quae ex fanis commutatae sunt, de ramis arborum faciant. 
(Bed., I. 30). 



Finally it may be noted that the modern 
practice of dedicating buildings other than 
churches (for example college, lodge or club 
buildings) is derived from the same ancient 





THE LUSTRAL use of water was famil- 
iar to the Romans at an early date. 
Livy 1 records an incident of the time 
of King Servius which presupposes a belief in 
the necessity of ablution before sacrifice. In 
many cases a laurel-branch, dipped in water, 
was used to sprinkle a place or object that 
needed lustration. 2 Tacitus 3 speaks of the lus- 
tration by means of water of the site of the 
Capitoline temple of Jove on the occasion of 
its rebuilding in the time of the Emperor Ves- 
pasian. And Tertullian 4 mentions the purifi- 
cation of residences, temples, and whole cities 

1 I. 45. 6: "Quidnam tu, hospes, paras" inquit "in- 
ceste sacrificium Dianae facere? Quin tu ante vivo per- 
f underis flumine ? " 

2 Ov., Fast., IV. 728; V. 677. 

3 Hist., IV. 53. 

4 De Baptismo, 5. 



by the same method. There is, however, no 
evidence that water was used on the dies lus- 
tricus the ninth day after birth in the case 
of a boy and the eighth in that of a girl when 
a child was given its name. It is difficult to see 
on what grounds the statement is made that on 
this occasion "the child was passed through 
water." 5 Macrobius 6 refers to some kind of 
lustration but he does not specify water. 

In some of the Oriental cults established in 
Rome and elsewhere in Italy holy water had a 
still more important part. It was for example 
a feature of the cult of Isis, as is shown by the 
fresco of Herculaneum referred to on page 134. 
Moreover, one of the buildings in the precinct 
of the Isiac temple at Pompeii contains a tank 
apparently intended for the storage of the holy 
water from the Nile. Further, we know from 
Apuleius 7 that baptism by the priest was a 
prerequisite for initiation into the mysteries of 
Isis, its purpose being purification and remis- 
sion of sins. The worshippers of Sabazios also, 
a Thraco-Phrygian deity known in Rome at 
least by the end of the second century, were 

5 E. R. E., under " Baptism." 

6 Sat., I. 16. 36: est autem lustricus dies, quo infantes 
lustrantur et nomen accipiunt. 

7 Met., XI. 23: sacerdos ... me ... abluit. 



baptized before initiation. And the followers 
of the Mithras cult also practiced baptism. 

The examples I have cited both from early 
Roman practice and from the Oriental religions 
show how common the ritual use of water 
among the pagans was. And while it cannot 
be maintained that the Christians derived their 
rite of baptism from this source for it is 
much more probable that the dominating in- 
fluence was the Jewish practice yet it may 
reasonably be said that the stress laid upon the 
rite by so many pagan cults and the strength 
of its appeal to the masses, who doubtless found 
a special satisfaction in the simplicity of its 
symbolism, contributed materially to the in- 
stitution of the Christian doctrine. 

The ancient Roman custom of touching a 
baby's forehead and lips with spittle on the 
day on which it received its name is men- 
tioned by Persius 8 with caustic comment. The 
purpose of the act apparently was to avert the 
machinations of witch or demon. 9 A similar 
use of spittle survives in the baptism service 
of the Roman Church today, in which the 

* Sat., 2. 31. 

9 The subject is discussed by Nicolson in his article 
" The Saliva Superstition " in Harvard Studies in Classical 
Philology, VIII. 23-40 (1897). 



priest touches the ears and nostrils of the 
candidate for baptism with spittle, using 
among other phrases the words : tu autem effu- 
gare y diabole. Doubtless the immediate source 
of the Catholic usage is St. Mark's 10 account 
of Christ's cure of the deaf-and-dumb man. 
But the Roman belief in the efficacy of spittle 
against malign influences was also an element 
in the establishment of the practice. 

2. Music 

SONG was a very old tradition in Roman cult, 
and chants of religious content in the primitive 
Italian measure constituted some of the earliest 
attempts of the Romans in the field of lyric 
poetry. Examples are the songs of the Arval 
Brothers and of the Salii. We have evidence 
also of a lyrical element in supplications ad- 
dressed to other gods. 11 Moreover, flutists 
regularly played during sacrifices and took part 
in many other religious ceremonies. It has 
been maintained by some that the original pur- 
pose of this music was to drive away evil 
spirits. 12 Others have thought that it was used 

10 7* 33, 34- 

11 R. Peter, " De Romanorum precationum carminibus " 
in Comment ationes in honorem A. Reifierscheidii, 67-83. 

12 Granger, The Worship of the Romans, 283. 



in order to prevent the person performing the 
sacrifice from hearing any words of ill-omen. 
Whatever its origin, there developed in the 
course of time adequate realization of its effec- 
tiveness in inducing a feeling of piety and in 
intensifying religious emotion. This was mani- 
festly the idea that motivated the greatly in- 
creased emphasis on music that marked all 
ceremonies that were conducted in accordance 
with the forms of Greek ritual, and the popu- 
larity of Greek rites grew steadily from the 
early days of the Republic. To Greek influ- 
ence for instance must be attributed the use 
of the lyre in sacred ceremonies, although 
this instrument established itself so slowly 
that Horace 13 speaks of its use in religious 
service as something relatively new in his 

But other causes besides the growing popu- 
larity of Greek ritual were operating to give 
greater prominence to the musical element in 
worship. Music was one of the most striking 
features of the Oriental cults that from the end 
of the third century before Christ till the third 
or fourth century of our era played so im- 

13 Od.j III. n. 3: Tuque, testudo . . . , Nee loquax 
olim neque grata, nunc et Divitum mensis et arnica templis. 



portant a part in Roman religious history. The 
street processions of the priests of the Great 
Mother were accompanied by the beating of 
tambourines, the blaring of horns, and the 
clashing of cymbals. Inscriptions referring to 
the cult indicate an elaborate musical person- 
nel: drummers, players of cymbals, flutists, 
and hymnists. In the worship of Isis music was 
one of the most important elements. A notable 
feature of the November festival was the choral 
ode sung by a choir of twenty-seven members. 
In the processions both vocal and instrumental 
music were employed. Now it was the rattle of 
the sistrum, now the flute, now the voices of 
choirs of young people, clad in white robes, 
who sang the praises of Isis or Serapis. 14 But 
wildest of all cult-music was that of the priests 
of Ma-Bellona, the Cappadocian goddess, as 
they paraded to the accompaniment of trum- 
pet and tambourine. 

Such was the tradition of religious music 
into which Christianity in Rome was born. 
At first many of the Christians, associating 
music with all that was pagan, were bitterly 
opposed to it and we find writers of the fourth 
and fifth centuries condemning the use of song 

i* Apul., Met., XI. 9. 


and instruments in cult. So rigid an attitude, 
however, could hardly have been universal 
even in the early days, especially in the matter 
of vocal music. The earliest Christians used 
song in worship as we know from the New 
Testament, and there was besides the inevi- 
table influence of the Jewish use of instrumen- 
tal music in cult. St. Ambrose, toward the 
end of the fourth century, is said to have in- 
troduced the chanting of psalms by responsive 
choirs and St. Gregory the Great, who lived two 
centuries later, is credited with the institution 
of a musical ritual for the churches of Rome. 
But the whole question of the steps in the 
transition from classical to Christian music is 
involved in obscurity. The extensive use of 
music in many of the cults practiced in Rome 
must have had some influence on the Chris- 
tians in the organization of their service; it is 
probable also that even such early Christian 
music as the Ambrosian chants may have per- 
petuated the tradition of some Greek or 
Graeco-Roman melody. But too little is known 
about the nature of the original Ambrosian or 
Gregorian music to justify a positive statement. 
Even the relation of what is now called Am- 
brosian or Gregorian music to the original 


systems of the two bishops is a matter of great 


THE use of bells in religious services was com- 
mon in India and China long before it was 
adopted in Europe. We have, however, some 
fairly early examples in Greece and Etruria. 
For we are told that at the sanctuary of Zeus 
at Dodona bells were rung or gongs sounded; 
and the tomb of the Etruscan prince Porsenna, 
near Clusium, was equipped with a number of 
little bells that vibrated in the wind. On Ro- 
man soil we hear of a gong at the second temple 
of Jupiter Capitolinus, dedicated by Catulus in 
69 B.C. Its purpose, like that of the bells at, 
Dodona and on Porsenna's tomb, was probably 
to frighten away malicious spirits. 

Bells were used in some of the foreign cults 
introduced into Italy. For example in the 
Bacchanalia both Bacchants and Bacchantes 
sometimes carried a bell in their hand or had 
one tied to their wrist or fastened on the 
thyrsus. The priests of the Great Mother and 
Attis also made use of bells, as is shown by 
the bas-reliefs connected with this cult in which 
a number of small bells are seen suspended 


from the branches of a tree. In the cult of Isis 
the rattle (sistrum) was in constant use both 
in processions and in services at the temple. 
In these cases also the most probable explana- 
tion of the practice is the belief that the sound 
warded off evil demons. 

Of this prophylactic use of bells there are 
still other examples. The inscription on a small 
gold bell that was dug up on the Esquiline Hill 
in Rome makes definite reference to the evil 
eye. Probably the bells sometimes attached 
to the car of a general celebrating a triumph 
were intended to furnish protection against 
malign influences. And the same may be said 
of the bells so often hung on the head or neck 
of horses and other animals in Roman times. 
One of the mules in Phaedrus 7 fable 15 and the 
ass in Apuleius 7 Metamorphoses 16 wore a bell. 

From more than one Latin author we know 
that the ringing of bells and the sounding of 
gongs were among the noises used to drive 
away the evil spirit that caused an eclipse. 17 

It is doubtful whether executioners or the 
criminals whom they executed wore bells, as 

15 II. 7 (MuH duo et latrones). 

16 X. 18: tintinnabulis perargutis exornatum. 

^ Juvenal, VI. 441 ff. Cf. Liv., XXVI. 5 ; Tac., Ann., 
I. 28. 3. 


has sometimes been claimed. Certainly the 
passages cited from Plautus 18 in support of the 
contention do not furnish adequate evidence. 

Of special interest for our study is a bell 
found at Tarragona in Spain. It belonged to 
one Felix, a slave in a temple of the city, who 
used it in the rites of the cult of the Emperor 
(sacris Augustis}. He may have rung it to 
indicate the moment of sacrifice or some other 
important point in the ritual. 

Of these Roman examples of the use of bells 
there are some survivals. Certainly the bells 
that one sees today on the harness of horses in 
Italy go back to the ancient practice of which 
some instances have been given above. In 
Italy, especially among the lower classes, there 
is still belief in and fear of the evil eye, witch- 
craft, and other hostile influences of super- 
human character. 

And it is likely that in the use of the bell 
found at Tarragona to which reference has 
just been made we have the origin of the cus- 
tom of ringing a small bell (the sanctus) at the 
celebration of the mass. Apparently an analo- 
gous use was made of the sistrum by the priests 
of Isis. In the fresco from Herculaneum de- 

18 Pseud., 332; True., 782. 


picting the adoration of the holy water the 
priest and priestess on either side of the offi- 
ciant are represented as shaking a sistrum. It 
is to this use of the sistrum that some scholars 
attribute exclusively the ringing of the bell in 
the ceremony of the mass, but the analogy is 
not sufficiently close to justify this conclusion. 
There were probably other uses of bells in 
the earlier days of the Church. We have for 
example an illustration in which St. Patrick is 
represented in the act of giving a bell to a 
bishop on his consecration as if it were an es- 
sential of his office. We may assume also that 
the pagan practice of ringing bells to ward off 
evil spirits did not pass away with the establish- 
ment of Christianity. It may have contributed 
to the ringing of bells at funerals so often at- 
tested in mediaeval times. Tyack 19 in his 
comments on the representation of the funeral 
of Edward the Confessor draws attention to the 
two boys attending the corpse, each of whom is 
ringing a pair of handbells. He says that this 
practice was derived from paganism. To a cer- 
tain extent this may be true. Probably the 
ringing of the bells by the boys was intended to 
protect the dead king from evil spirits. We 

19 A Book About Bells. 


know that the Romans sometimes blew horns 
and beat tambourines when a soul was pass- 
ing, 20 and the idea may have been similar. 
That evil spirits prowled around the dying and 
might injure the dead seems to have been a 
widely accepted belief. The original signifi- 
cance of the " passing-bell " in England is cer- 
tainly the same as that of the horn and tam- 
bourine just mentioned. 

The ringing of bells to summon people to 
worship was a development of the Christian 
era. There is no evidence of such a custom 
among the Romans in pagan times, nor is it 
likely that the Christian practice was instituted 
till after the persecutions had ceased. It is 
probable that it is not earlier than the fourth 


LIGHTED lamps and torches appear in various 
cults and ceremonies of ancient Rome. The 
women who marched in procession from Rome 
to the sanctuary of Diana on Lake Nemi car- 
ried torches. Lights too were used in rites con- 
nected with the dead. One of the reliefs on the 
monument of the Haterii now in the Lateran 

20 See fig. 3358, Daremberg et Saglio, Dictionnaire, 
under Funus. 



Museum shows lighted lamps at the head and 
foot of the corpse; and lamps, placed in or 
near tombs, were lighted on certain occasions. 
Moreover, there can be little doubt that lights 
had an important part in the ritual of several 
of the Greek and Oriental divinities in Rome. 
The torch was one of the symbols of Ceres 
(Demeter), and the lamps found in one of the 
rooms in the precinct of Isis in Pompeii were 
doubtless used with symbolical significance in 
the cult of the Egyptian goddess. Further, 
the polemical writings of Tertullian (about 
A.D. 200) and Lactantius (about A.D. 300) make 
it plain that the placing of lights before the 
images of gods and on votive objects was a 
common pagan practice. 

At first the Christians scrupulously refrained 
from a ritual use of lights. In their eyes appar- 
ently the practice had the taint of paganism. 
But from the end of the third century their at- 
titude seems to have changed and after the rec- 
ognition of Christianity by Constantine the 
symbolical use of lights established itself firmly 
in many kinds of ceremonies. Candles were 
burned before images of the Madonna or Christ 
or the Saints, and were a conspicuous part of 
numerous ceremonial processions and sacred 


ceremonies such as baptisms, marriages, and 
funerals. While some of the Christian writers 
continued to protest against this pagan element 
in the Church, others defended it. 21 Lights be- 
came and still are an inevitable concomitant of 
many forms of religious service. Their re- 
introduction into cult after the primitive sim- 
plicity of the first few centuries of Christianity 
had passed away, was only one phase of that 
externalism that came to be a notable character- 
istic of Christianity after and partly as a result 
of the imperial favor which it attained. ' 


LiVY 22 speaks of a ceremony in Rome in 
296 B.C. at which incense (tus) was used; Plau- 
tus 23 mentions an offering of incense and wine 
to the Lar of the family; and Cato 24 specifies 
a similar offering to Janus, Jove, and Juno. In 
view of this it is probable that Arnobius 25 and 
Ovid 26 overstressed the lateness of the date of 
its introduction among the Romans. In any 

21 Cf. Hieronymus, II. 2: Ulud fiebat idolis et idcirco 
detestandum est; hoc fit martyribus et idcirco recipiendum 

22 X. 23. 2. 

23 AuL, 24. 25 vil. 26. 

24 De agric., 141. 26 Fast., I. 341. 


case it is clear that even if they did not have 
incense proper in their early days they had 
some other fragrant material that served the 
same purpose. Its use doubtless increased with 
the growth of Greek influence in Roman ritual, 
and among other occasions it was offered lav- 
ishly at supplicationes. In the days of reli- 
gious conflict the practice of burning incense 
distinguished pagans from Christians. Pru- 
dentius calls the pagan idolaters " the incense- 
bearing crowd " (turifera grex), and one of the 
tests imposed on persons suspected of being 
Christians was the offering of a few grains of 
incense on the altar of some Roman god. St. 
Cyprian 27 applies the term " incense-offerers " 
(turificati} to Christians who recanted. 

Perhaps it was the bitter associations of the 
Christians with incense that inhibited its use 
by them during the first four centuries of the 
Church. At any rate there is no evidence of its 
being employed ritually till nearly the end of 
the fourth century. At that time there is a 
reference to its use in a church in Jerusalem. 
In the sixth century it is attested for Antioch, 
and by the eighth century we hear of censers 
being swung in western churches during the 

27 Ep, 5$. i. 


procession from the sacristy to the altar. Only 
gradually was its use extended in the west to 
the celebration of the mass and other solemn 
services of the Catholic church. This had, how- 
ever, become the practice by the fourteenth 
century and now obtains. In the Anglican 
church the use of incense, which was abolished 
at the Reformation, was resumed about the 
middle of the nineteenth century and at pres- 
ent is increasing. 28 


REFERENCE has already been made to the veil- 
ing of the bride (page 30) and to the custom 
of the celebrant's covering his head during 
sacrifice (page 168). Another notable exam- 
ple of veiling is attested for the Romans. For 
when the priests of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus 
sacrificed to Good Faith (Fides) on the Capi- 
tol on the first of October, their right hands 
were wrapped in white cloth. The uniqueness 
of this ritual for it does not occur in the cult 
of any other Roman divinity shows that the 
idea was not so much that of approaching the 
goddess with clean hands as that of saf e-guard- 

28 Athcley, History of the Use of Incense in Divine 



ing and preserving the purity and sanctity of 
the right hand which was regarded by the Ro- 
mans as the abiding-place of Good Faith. For 
they too clasped their right hands when they 
made pledges. That this is the dominant con- 
ception of the act seems clearly indicated by 
Livy, 29 There is no evidence that the right 
hand of the statue of Fides was also covered, 
as Fowler has suggested on the basis of a pas- 
sage in Horace. 30 The poet has probably 
transferred to the goddess the attribute of the 

But while the ultimate explanation of the 
covering of the hand is such as has been de- 
scribed, the act also came to connote respect 
and homage, and of this aspect of it we have 
survivals. In Christian art the hands of Peter 
receiving the keys are sometimes represented 
as covered. There are pictures also of martyrs 
holding their crowns with veiled hands. And 
in our own time cardinals have their hands cov- 
ered when they receive the hat from the Pope 
and when they approach him to do homage. 

29 I. 21. 4: significantes fidem tutandam, sedemque eius 
etiam in dextris sacratam esse. 

so Od., I. 35. 21-22: albo . . . Fides . . . velata panno. 



GARLANDS were extensively used in Roman re- 
ligious rites. 31 They were put on statues of the 
gods, were worn by worshippers, formed part 
of the equipment of bride and groom at wed- 
ding ceremonies, and were even placed on the 
heads of the dead. Whether the original idea 
was that the garland was a magic circle which 
protected from evil influences that which it en- 
circled, cannot be stated positively. This ex- 
planation suits some of its uses, but in others 
the notion involved seems to be that of de- 
voted adherence to divinity or cult or religious 

In the early days of the Church the garland 
was a symbol of paganism, as is clear from Ter- 
tullian's 32 story of the soldier whose adherence 
to Christianity was detected through his re- 
fusal to wear one. The more rigid Christians 
carefully avoided chaplets and wreaths of all 
kinds in religious rites and ceremonies. Ter- 
tullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Cyprian 
are outspoken in their condemnation and de- 
nounce them as emblems of heathenism and all 

31 Kochling, De coronarum apud antiques vi atque usu, 
33 ff. 

32 De corona, i. 



that was bad in pagan practice. But little by 
little the attitude of the Christians changed. 
It was pointed out that more than one passage 
in the Scriptures referred to "the crown of 
life." 33 Moreover, chaplets were used by the 
Gnostics in their mystic rites, and in the bap- 
tismal ceremony of the Coptic and Aethiopian 
Christians a garland of myrtle and palm leaves 
was placed on the head of the baptized. To 
these Christian sects the wreath, like the girdle 
which they also put on the person baptized, 
probably symbolized consecration and com- 
plete devotion to God. 

Of the ancient use of garlands in connection 
with the dead we have traces of survival not 
only in the almost universal funeral wreath 
but also in the frequent sculptured repre- 
sentations of garlands on sepulchral monu- 

Nor is the Roman custom of decking statues 
of gods with chaplets entirely gone. For the 
same spirit that in Horace's ode 34 " crowned 
the little images of the gods with rosemary and 
myrtle " still finds expression in the images 
of the Madonna decked with garlands that 

83 Revelation, 2. 10; James, i. 12; I. Peter, 5. 4. 

84 HI. 23. 15-16. 



may be seen along the roads in southern 
Italy. 35 


THE shaven head was one of the characteris- 
tics of the priests of Isis. Moreover, the shav- 
ing of the head was a necessary preliminary to 
initiation into the mysteries of the Egyptian 
goddess. The Isiac custom probably had a 
certain degree of influence on the attitude of 
the early Christians toward the practice and 
had something to do with the later adoption of 
the tonsure by priests and monks. But the 
influence was neither immediate nor direct nor 
exclusive. Tonsure was known to other Orien- 
tal religions besides Isiaism and Christianity. 
It was practiced by the Hebrews, and its exist- 
ence in Brahmanic and Buddhist rites may 
indicate a long anterior history in the Far 

There is no evidence that it was extensively 
practiced in the early days of the Church. To 
be sure both Peter and Paul are said to have 
had tonsured heads, and of its occasional use 
there seem to be clear indications in the New 
Testament. Perhaps the references in the lat- 

85 Trede, op. cit. } IV. 208; MacCulloch, in . R. E., 
IV. 340. 



ter point only to special penitential occasions. 
But even so they are significant of a tendency 
and the oft-quoted saying of St. Jerome S6 that 
Christian priests should not appear with shorn 
head lest they be confounded with priests of 
Isis and Serapis or other heathen deities sug- 
gests the possibility that Christian clerics had 
sometimes done so. One gets the same impres- 
sion from the action of the Council of Carthage 
(398); which prohibited the cutting of the 
beard and hair. It is a mistake to say that the 
tonsure was not practiced in the fourth cen- 
tury. All that can be safely said is that it was 
not authorized. 

In heathen and Christian rites the signifi- 
cance of the tonsure was the same. It indicated 
the separation of the devotee from the world 
and his ascription to divine service. The prac- 
tice probably first grew up among the Chris- 
tians as a form of penitential devotion, to the 
development of which such customs as those 
of the Nazarites as described in the Old Testa- 
ment 37 and those referred to in Acts 38 and in 
the First Epistle to the Corinthians S9 as well as 
the example of the priests and initiates of Isis 

36 In Ezech., 44. 88 21. 24-26. 

37 Numbers, 6. iB. 11. 14, 15. 



made their respective contributions. It was 
firmly established among orders of monks as 
early as the fifth century. 


A ROMAN bride always wore at her wedding a 
girdle tied with a "Herculean knot" (nodus 
Herculaneus). After the ceremony was over 
and she had been escorted to her new home, 
this knot was loosed in the bridal chamber by 
her husband. So closely associated with the 
marriage rite was this tying and untying of the 
girdle that both processes were believed to be 
under the direct supervision of Juno, goddess 
of marriage and childbirth, sometimes called 
on account of her connection with this custom 
"Juno of the Girdle" (luno Cinxia). The 
symbolism shifts from the permanence of the 
marriage bond indicated by the tying of the 
knot to the removal of restrictions signified 
by its untying. 

Of this Roman "knot of Hercules" there 
may be, as has been suggested, 40 a survival in 
the modern love-knot, which is regarded as an 
emblem of true and abiding affection. Possi- 

40 Thomas Browne, Works (London edition of 1904), 
II. 366. 



bly, however, the latter is a parallel rather 
than a survival. 

Ovid tells us that a pregnant woman must 
undo her hair before praying to the spirits of 
childbirth and that she must not have any 
knots in her clothing. Billing 41 cites a parallel 
to this in Bilaspur, where women's hair must 
never be knotted during childbirth; and the 
same writer draws attention to the fact that 
in some Jewish communities, when there is a 
difficult labor in the house, the unmarried 
girls let down their hair. 


THERE was a taboo on iron among the Romans 
as well as among other ancient peoples. If the 
Arval Brothers ever used an iron tool within 
the precincts of their sacred grove, they were 
obliged to make a piacular sacrifice. The high- 
priest of Jupiter (flamen Dialis} could not be 
shaved or shorn with an iron razor or shears, 
and some Sabine priests seem to have been sub- 
ject to a similar restriction. No iron was used 
in the building or repairing of the Pons Sub- 
licius, which was the oldest bridge across the 
Tiber and always had sacred associations for 

E. R. E., VII. 748. 


the Romans. An iron plough could not be used 
in marking the sacred boundary (pomerium) 
of a newly-founded city. The same attitude 
toward this metal is seen in the fact that it was 
only by special provision that the temple of lup- 
piter Liber at Furfo could be repaired with 
iron tools. We are told also that cutting with 
an iron knife impaired the medicinal efficacy 
of mistletoe. 42 

There are traces of this taboo among the 
Greeks and Hebrews also. The council-chamber 
at Cyzicus on the Propontis was constructed 
entirely of wood without any nails, nor was any 
iron used in the temple at Jerusalem. But the 
fear of this metal was still more widespread 
than this. It probably existed among the Hin- 
doos and numerous tribes of Europe, Africa, 
and North America. The taboo is probably to 
be traced back to the time when iron was a new 
discovery and therefore subject to suspicion. 

There are survivals of this superstition and 
though they cannot be said to be descended di- 
rectly from the Roman tradition they are trace- 
able to a psychological complex to which Roman 
religious belief made its contribution. Some 
of the most notable of these survivals are 

4 2 Pliny, N. H., XXIV. 4. 6. 12. 


found among the Highlanders of Scotland. 43 
For example, when making a need-fire these 
Scots take special precautions to have nothing 
made of iron on their persons. Similarly no iron 
is ever used by them in making a Yule-tide 
fire-wheel. Nor will they put iron in the 
ground, either to dig a grave or plough a field, 
on Good Friday. Taboos of the same kind are 
observed in the Hebrides. In Russia wizards 
who use the plant called loose-strife in the prac- 
tice of their art never cut it with an iron knife. 
The introduction of iron ploughs into Poland 
aroused the superstitious fears of the peasants 
and furnished them with an explanation for 
bad crops. Other examples of taboo on iron 
are cited by Frazer 44 from Africa, Madagascar, 
Corea, and North America. 

43 Frazer, G. B., III. 229. 
4* Ibid., 225 ff. 



WHILE the idea of regeneration is not 
stressed in the old Roman religion, 
it is a mistake to suppose that it 
appears only with the cults imported from 
Greece and the Orient. It is true that the 
dominant place occupied by it in some of the 
foreign cults resulted in a reconstruction of re- 
ligious thought, which, especially in regard to 
the spiritual experience of individuals, marks 
an epoch in the history of religion. But even 
in the early religious observances of Rome there 
were practices the whole purpose of which was 
the attainment of that communion with deity 
which is a basal element in all doctrines of re- 
generation. Examples may be found in the 
sacred meals connected with the worship of 
some Roman gods (page 161). But while the 
idea of communion emerged here, it failed to 
develop into a medium of personal regeneration. 
It did not develop at all. Roman religion 
passed more and more under the sway of sacer- 


dotalism, and people came to think of the flaw- 
less performance of rites as the chief means 
of religious efficacy. 

Doubtless this failure of Roman religion 
to satisfy the religious longings of indi- 
viduals had much to do with the success of 
the emotional cults from the East that be- 
ginning at the end of the third century be- 
fore Christ continued to invade Rome for five 
hundred years. Several of these cults stressed 
the idea of regeneration and the ultimate at- 
tainment of perfect spiritual purity and eternal 
felicity in a world beyond the grave. Some of 
the more important phases of this attitude as it 
manifested itself in the different cults have al- 
ready been touched upon in a previous chapter. 
It has been pointed out, for example, that in the 
worship of the Great Mother a person who had 
participated in the taurobolium was believed 
to be reborn (page 125). And this idea was 
emphasized to such a degree that devotees after 
taking part in the rite were not infrequently 
treated like infants and their diet restricted for 
some time to milk. Moreover, the whole story 
of Attis, the associate of the Great Mother, 
bears immediately on the doctrine of regenera- 
tion. Originally symbolizing the vegetation 


that dies in the autumn and revives in the 
spring, he came to be a symbol of that spiritual 
rebirth that all true followers of the cult might 
aspire to. Such information as we have about 
the rite of the pine-tree felled, carried into 
the temple, and regarded as Attis himself 
shows clearly that all those who attended were 
believed to participate in the regenerative proc- 
ess so dramatically represented. 1 And the re- 
generation held for the next world as well as 
for this. In a word, Attis was a redeemer god. 
Initiation into the mysteries of Isis, as we 
know from Apuleius, involved a baptism that 
washed away the impurities of man's imperfect 
nature and made him fit to commune with God. 
It is of especial interest that the same word 
" reborn " (renatus) is used by Apuleius of 
the initiate of Isis as by the followers of the 
Great Mother when they wrote the text of the 
inscriptions recording the taurobolia. The new 
life manifested itself in chastity and devotion 
to the service of the goddess. Faithful ad- 
herence to the doctrines of the cult assured the 
initiate not only happiness in this life but also 
everlasting felicity in the next; he was reborn 
to righteousness during his mortal span and to 

1 Willoughby, Pagan Regeneration, 122. 


immortality under the benign favor of the god- 
dess. A dramatic representation of the resur- 
rection of Osiris, the husband of Isis, was part 
of the mysteries of the cult and in this the 
devotees were taught to see the assurance of 
their own resurrection to eternal life. 2 For 
Osiris also was a redeemer god. 

In Mithraism (page 146) the idea of regen- 
eration is still more prominent. It is the moti- 
vating conception in the long series of prelimi- 
nary tests, in the mock killing of the candidate, 
in the baptismal rite, and in the sacred meal of 
bread and wine. Through the tests, moral as 
well as physical, courage and steadfastness were 
measured and developed. The pretended kill- 
ing symbolized the end of the old impure life 
and implied the idea of a resurrection to a 
life of new and higher spirituality here and 
hereafter. Baptism, either by sprinkling or 
immersion, washed away the sins and impuri- 
ties of the flesh. And finally the sacred 
commemorative meal, so well illustrated by 
the relief found at Konjica in Bosnia, brings the 
initiate into immediate communion with the 
divine Mithras. Data in regard to the details 
of many phases of Mithraic ritual are woefully 

2 Willoughby, op. cit., 175, 


inadequate, but some information is available 
from ancient authors, especially the Church 
Fathers. Among other curious things we are 
told that after baptism honey was put on the 
tongue of the initiate, apparently in the belief 
that it was a medium of spiritual growth. It 
is reported also that the initiates were branded 
on the forehead as a sign of adherence to the 
faith and even as a means of identification by 
the god himself. If we could accept Die- 
terich's 3 view that part of the contents of a 
magical papyrus found in Egypt belongs to a 
Mithraic liturgy, we should point to it as at- 
testing with an unusual degree of clearness the 
importance of the doctrine of regeneration in 
Mithraism. But Dieterich has not established 
his case. It must, however, be added that while 
this document does not refer to Mithraism, it 
furnishes incontestable evidence of the preva- 
lence of the idea of regeneration in the re- 
ligious conceptions of the third and fourth cen- 
turies of our era. For in its text we find some 
of the most striking expressions of the idea of 
spiritual rebirth. 

Other influences also were active in the pagan 
world in the propagation of the doctrine of re- 

3 Eine Mitkrasliturgie. 



generation. The Orphics taught the possibility 
of regeneration and final salvation through 
cycles of incarnation and purgatorial suffering. 
The doctrines of the Neopythagoreans fol- 
lowed the same lines. As further evidence of 
the prevalence of the idea of regeneration we 
may cite the Hermetic literature, for although 
the compilation of this Corpus may not have 
taken place till the end of the third century, 
some of the tractates are as early as the first 
century. 4 In these writings, especially in the 
dialogue between Hermes and his son Tat, re- 
generation has a notably prominent place. 

Finally pagan philosophy was helping to 
build up the belief in regeneration. Neo- 
platonism, which had great influence in the first 
three centuries of the Christian era, constructed 
as it was on the basis of passages in Plato's 
dialogues which dealt with the aspiration of 
the soul toward the ultimate source of all that 
was good and beautiful, taught the possibility 
of purification from sin and the communion of 
the soul with God. And Stoicism, which in the 
age just before the end of the Republic and 
during the first centuries of the Christian era 
constituted the religion or at least was the chief 

4 Reitzenstein, Poimandres, n ff. 



ethical control of many Romans of the cultured 
class, turned men's minds in the same direction. 
The ideas of freeing the soul from evil, of com- 
muning with the divine, and even of instan- 
taneous regeneration appear in the writings of 
the Stoic philosophers. It was from Stoicism 
that Cicero drew the phrase " not emended but 
transfigured." 5 

The theories of regeneration mentioned above 
tell their own story, and it is hardly necessary 
to point to the similar doctrines that form an 
important part of Christian teaching. The 
purifying power of baptism, communion with 
God through sacred meals or other media, and 
the higher spiritual life that could be thus at- 
tained, redemption through a god who died and 
rose again, hell, purgatory, and heaven are all 
parts of the common stock of religious ideas 
that were current in the first centuries of the 
Christian Church. Large numbers of those 
who listened to the early preachers of Christi- 
anity were, from their knowledge of the mys- 
tery religions, wholly familiar with many of 
the doctrines of the new faith. Nor is it pos- 
sible or even important to indicate from what 
particular source Isiac, Mithraic, Orphic, or 

6 O'n whole subject see Willoughby, op. cit., 221 ff., 269 ff. 


other the Christians drew this or that doc- 
trine. Justin Martyr's remark on the imita- 
tion of Christian rites by the Mithraists has 
already been quoted. Perhaps his statement in 
regard to the matter was true so far as it went, 
but there is every reason to believe that the imi- 
tation was not always on one side. In addi- 
tion to the fundamental fact of the general 
prevalence of the idea of regeneration and 
of certain methods of consummating it there 
doubtless was inter-action among the different 
religions, and what had proved effective propa- 
ganda material for one cult was sometimes 
adopted by another. For example the branding 
of initiates of Mithras on the forehead may 
perhaps be the source of the custom that pre- 
vailed among some Gnostic sects of branding 
adherents on the right ear. And here too we 
may see the ultimate origin of the present cus- 
tom of making the sign of the cross over candi- 
dates for baptism and confirmation. 



THE ROMANS of the early period had 
only the vaguest ideas about the con- 
dition and nature of souls after death. 
It is, however, clear that they conceived of 
them as living, and if not always active, at least 
capable of action. In their belief apparently, if 
burial rites were properly performed and the 
customary offerings at the tomb duly made, the 
spirits were likely to be quiescent. But if these 
ceremonies were neglected, they would become 
hostile. Whatever activity the Romans at- 
tributed to them they thought of as being mani- 
fested in the affairs of this world, especially in 
those of the families to which they belonged. 
The idea of a hell does not appear in early Ro- 
man religion. 

But when Greek religious beliefs became cur- 
rent in Rome, the idea of an abode for the 
spirits of the dead a place of torture for the 
damned and an elysium for the innocent sit- 
uated somewhere under the earth became more 
and more familiar. Nor can we say that ideas 



of this kind existed only among those whose 
culture included a knowledge of the literature 
and religion of the Greeks. To be sure it was 
chiefly through them that such beliefs spread, 
but that they did reach many of the less cul- 
tured classes seems beyond question. It is 
hardly likely that Lucretius would have written 
as he did about the horrors and absurdities of 
Hades unless there had been in his time a con- 
siderable volume of belief of this kind. 

Greek influence in this field, however, was 
not confined to the spread of such ideas about 
the lower world as are found in Homer. Much 
more potent was the influence of the Eleusinian 
Mysteries and Orphic doctrines. The former 
made a profound impression upon Graeco- 
Roman society; and Orphism was established 
in southern Italy as early as the fifth century 
before Christ. It preceded Pythagoreanism in 
that region and many of its doctrines were 
adopted by the Pythagoreans. Both in the 
Eleusinian Mysteries and in Orphism the doc- 
trine of hell involves not merely the idea of 
punishment for sins committed in this life but 
also purgatorial suffering through which one 
might ultimately attain purity and that eternity 
of happiness which is its reward. 



Doubtless also the various Greek stories 
about descents to hell, such as those of Or- 
pheus, who went down to rescue Eurydice, 
Dionysus who made the descent in search of 
Semele, Theseus and Pirithous who planned to 
carry off Persephone herself, and Castor and 
Pollux all of which are frequently mentioned 
by the Latin poets helped to disseminate the 
idea of a hell. 

An important document for the study of the 
religious attitude of the time is the sixth book 
of VirgiPs Aeneid. It is a link between the age 
of Augustus and the Christian era. This is 
especially true of that passage where the poet 
seems to give expression to his belief on the 
question of life and death. The lines are of 
notable significance. He speaks as though he 
were a seer in the highest sense of the word and 
were distilling the truth out of the confused 
mass of the religious thinking and philosophical 
speculation of the age. His period was one of 
transition in the history of religion. Prescott x 
has aptly said that " the sixth Aeneid is a bridge 
between paganism and Christianity." The old 
Roman religion had broken down. Thoughtful 
men had turned to philosophy. Some of Vir- 

1 Prescott, The Development of Virgil's Art, 427. 


gil's lines in this part of the sixth book might 
serve as an outline of the belief of an advanced 
theist of our own day. For example these: 

One Life through all the immense creation runs, 

One Spirit is the moon's, the sea's, the sun's; 

Ml forms in the air that fly, on the earth that creep, 

And the unknown nameless monsters of the deep, 

"Each breathing thing obeys one Mind's control, 

And in all substance is a single Soul. 

First to each seed a fiery force is given; 

And every creature was begot in heaven; 

Only their flight must hateful flesh delay 

And gross limbs moribund and cumbering clay. 

So from that hindering prison and night forlorn 

Thy hopes and fears, thy joys and woes are born, 

Who only seest, till death dispart thy gloom, 

The true world glow through crannies of a tomb. 2 

He had struck a similar note in a passage in the 
Georgics (IV. 223 ff.) : 

Then since from God those lesser lives began, 

And the eager spirits entered into man, 

To God again the enfranchised soul must tend, 

He is her home, her Author is her End; 

N0 death is hers; when earthly eyes grow dim, 

Starlike she soars and Godlike melts in Him? 

2 Translation by Myers, Essays-Classical, 173. 

3 Translation by Myers, ibid. 



There were other influences also. The cults 
of the Great Mother, Isis, and Mithras stressed, 
as a telling part of their propaganda, the 
certainty of a blessed immortality. Accord- 
ing to the teaching of the Mithraists, more- 
over, the soul of the devotee, purified by the 
rites connected with the seven successive 
degrees of initiation, passed through the 
seven spheres that lie between the earth and 
the upper regions of the sky and found its 
final resting-place in a heaven among the fixed 
stars. 4 

The influence of these pagan cults, together 
with that of Jewish teaching for the Jews 
also placed the souls of the dead beneath the 
earth is manifest in Christian doctrines of 
eschatology. Probably the mystery religions, 
chiefly through the scenes of their initiation 
ceremonies, made the largest contribution to the 
building up of those ideas of the ultimate des- 
tiny of the soul which from the second or third 
century on through the Middle Ages dominated 
Christian teaching and have not entirely disap- 
peared today. Indeed, in the doctrines of the 

4 There is a good discussion of the whole question of 
the attitude of the ancients toward the after-life in Clifford 
H. Moore's Pagan Ideas oj Immortality during the Early 
Roman Empire, 



less advanced forms of Christianity there are, 
with numerous and manifest modifications and 
changes, substantial remains of the old Homeric 
ideas of a hell for the wicked and a paradise for 
the blessed as well as of those beliefs in regard 
to the efficacy of purgatorial suffering which 
find their origin in the mystery religions. For 
the influence of the Mithraic conception of a 
heaven among the fixed stars the case is not so 

Nor is it unlikely that the story of the descent 
of Jesus into hell has been influenced by the 
stories of similar descents by pagan heroes re- 
ferred to above. 5 Those 6 who on the ground 
of dissimilarities in the stories scout this theory 
as " unproved " and " in the highest degree im- 
probable " do not make out a very strong case. 
Of course, there are differences in the stories; 
in each case pagan or Christian the set- 
ting is different. But none the less all the 
stories belong to the same class. The descent- 
idea was a part of the general fund of religious 
ideas in Graeco-Roman times. 

5 Clemen, Religions gesch. Erklarung d. N. T.; Gardner, 
Exploratio Evangelica, 263-74. 

6 See Friedrich Loofs in E. R. E., IV. 651. 



MANY material remains of the various 
cults practiced by the Romans may 
still be seen. These consist of pagan 
temples that have been converted into churches; 
of statues originally pagan that have been 
adapted to Christian usage; of statues, fres- 
coes, or mosaics that while belonging to the 
Christian era show the influence of pagan art; 
and of certain other miscellaneous relics. 


OF THE Roman temples taken over by the 
Church the most famous was the Pantheon, 
erected in the Campus Martius in 27 B.C. by 
Agrippa, minister of Augustus. Early in the 
seventh century it was dedicated by Pope Boni- 
face IV as the church of S. Maria ad Martyres, 
and for more than thirteen centuries it has been 
used for Christian services. Another example 
which in spite of the doubt about the identifica- 
tion of the remains may be mentioned, is the 


temple of Augustus, built by Tiberius, part of 
which was converted before the sixth century 
into the church of S. Maria Antiqua. The 
latter was replaced in the ninth century by the 
church of S. Maria Nuova, on the site of which 
in turn the basilica of S. Maria Liberatrice was 
erected in the thirteenth century. 1 The temple 
of the deified emperor Antoninus and his wife 
Faustina in the Forum became in the seventh 
or eighth century the church of S. Lorenzo 
in Miranda. The Ionic temple in the Fo- 
rum Boarium, possibly a sanctuary of Mater 
Matuta, was changed into the church of S. 
Maria Egiziaca in 872. The small round tem- 
ple in the same neighborhood, which with some 
degree of plausibility has been identified as the 
temple of Portunus, was the church of S. Ste- 
phano Rotondo in the twelfth century, of S. 
Stephano delle Carrozze in the sixteenth, and 
later became the church S. Maria del Sole. 

Nor was it in Rome only that pagan temples 
were used for Christian purposes. The so- 
called temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli was used as 
a church in the Middle Ages. At Cori in the 
Volscian hills part of the so-called temple of 

1 Plainer and Ashby, Topographical Dictionary of An- 
cient Rome, 62 ff. 



Hercules was incorporated with the church of 
S. Pietro. At Nola a temple of Victory became 
the church of the martyr Victoria. In the same 
town a temple of Apollo was converted into a 
church of Christ, and some of the attributes and 
functions of the pagan deity were transferred 
to his successor. On a promontory near Croton 
on the east coast of Bruttium in southern Italy 
once stood a temple of Hera, the religious cen- 
ter for all the Greek colonies along that coast 
and the objective of great pilgrimages, whither 
each year a gorgeous procession passed, as in 
Athens to the Parthenon. A temple of forty- 
eight columns it was, set in a grove of pine- 
trees. There was great treasure deposited there 
also, which even Hannibal feared to touch. 
When the Romans conquered this part of Italy, 
they merely changed the name of the goddess 
from Hera to Juno Lucina. Then in the fifth 
century the Bishop of Croton made the temple 
into a church and instead of Juno the Madonna 
was worshipped there. But certain features of 
the old cult remained. As before, processions 
passed to the temple; as before, vows were 
made and paid there; as before, women went 
there in the crises of their lives. In pagan times 
women used to lay down their ornaments before 



the image of Hera or Juno; in a later age 
Christian girls did the same when they re- 
nounced the world and entered a nunnery. The 
temple stood till the sixteenth century. In 
Sicily the Madonna has taken possession of 
sanctuaries of Ceres and Venus, and the peas- 
ants have transferred to her the worship their 
forbears once paid to her pagan predecessors. 
In the instances cited above it was the actual 
pagan building or at least part of it that was 
used by the Church. There are many examples 
also of pagan religious sites being used for 
Christian worship. In some cases this was 
nothing more than coincidence, in others there 
was some degree of continuity of cult, while 
doubtless in still others and this is probably 
true also of many of the buildings cited in the 
preceding paragraphs the Christians acted 
deliberately, glorying in the displacement of 
pagan by Christian rites and regarding it as a 
sign manifest of the victory of the true religion. 
The examples are numerous. About the middle 
of the ninth century Pope Leo IV built the 
church of S. Maria Nuova in the ruins of the 
temple of Venus and Rome in the Forum. This 
is now the church of S. Francesca Romana. 
The church of SS. Cosma and Damiano is on 



the site of the temple of the Penates as re- 
stored by Augustus. 2 The church of S. Maria 
in Cosmedin is built partly on the remains of 
an ancient temple, identified by some topog- 
raphers as that of Hercules Pompeianus. Sub- 
stantial ruins of a temple, the identification of 
which is uncertain, lie beneath the church of 
S. Niccolo ai Cesarini in the Campus Martius. 
In the same region is the church of S. Stephano 
del Cacco, which stands on the site of a temple 
of Isis and Serapis. Its specific designation 
(Cacco, " Baboon ") is derived from the figure 
now in the Vatican gallery, which once formed 
part of the decoration of the sacred avenue that 
led to the double temple. At Terracina on the 
coast of Latium the church of S. Caesareo 
stands on the site of a temple of Caesar Augus- 
tus. The monastery founded on Monte Cassino 
by Benedict in the sixth century was built on 
the site of a temple of Apollo. Benedict is 
said to have driven out the false god Apollo 
with holy water and to have established St. 
Martin there. Thus the bow-bearing Apollo 
yielded to St. Martin, but the bow still remains 
as an attribute of the Saint. One of the oldest 
churches of the Madonna in Naples is built 

12 Platner and Ashby, op. tit., 389, 


on the ruins of a temple of Diana, and it may 
easily be that the prayers which matrons today 
address to the Madonna do not differ very 
much in content from those formerly made to 
Diana. In Naples a church of John the Bap- 
tist occupied the site of a temple of Antinous, 
the favorite of Hadrian, who was deified at the 
instance of the latter. The church of S. Resti- 
tuta, which adjoins the cathedral in Naples, is 
said to be built on the site of a temple of Apollo, 
and the ancient columns in the nave are sup- 
posed to have originally belonged to that struc- 
ture. There is a church of St. Paul in Pozzuoli 
on the site of a temple of Castor and Pollux 
where statues of Peter and Paul have replaced 
the statues of the Dioscuri. At Posilipo the 
church of the Madonna del Faro has been built 
on the site of a shrine of Venus Eupleia, and 
like its pagan prototype is much frequented by 
sea-farers. In Nola it was a temple of Jupiter 
that yielded its site to the basilica of St. Felix, 
wonder-worker and patron of the town. In 
Meta near Sorrento there is the church of a 
Madonna who performs marvels of healing simi- 
lar to those which Minerva Medica formerly 
wrought on the same site. In Messina the 
church of St. Gregory occupies the site of a 



temple of Jupiter. At Marsala a church of St. 
John has been erected above the cave and magic 
spring of an ancient Sibyl, and the place long 
retained a reputation for oracular responses. 
On the western promontory of Sicily there is a 
famous statue of the Madonna on the site of 
the ancient temple of Venus Erycina. 


IN A few cases ancient statues have been 
adapted to Christian worship. The torso of 
S. Helena in the church of S. Croce in Gerusa- 
lemme, in Rome, probably once belonged to a 
statue of Juno with a scepter in the right hand 
and a vase in the left. A cross has been sub- 
stituted for the scepter and a nail from the cross 
for the vase. The figure of S. Sebastiano in 
the church of S. Agnese in the piazza Navona 
is an adaptation of an ancient statue. A statue 
of Ariadne on the banks of a stream near Mon- 
teleone in southern Italy is used today as a 
representation of S. Venere. The tomb of the 
poet Sannazaro in the church of S. Maria del 
Parto in Naples has a bas-relief with figures of 
Neptune, Pan, and nymphs, and on either side 
statues of Apollo and Minerva. It was not till 


the eighteenth century that the Apollo was 
inscribed with the name of David and the 
Minerva with that of Judith. 3 

But although the number of pagan statues 
that have been used in Christian worship is 
relatively small, there are numerous examples 
of the influence of Graeco-Roman art on Chris- 
tian representations of divinity or saints. While 
there is no possibility that the well-known 
statue of St. Peter in his basilica in Rome is an 
adaptation of a statue of Jupiter nor any rea- 
son for believing that the keys have been sub- 
stituted for a thunder-bolt, it doubtless does 
show the influence of pagan statues of seated 
divinities. To this same Graeco-Roman type 
of a seated divinity, if not to an ultimate pro- 
totype in Assyrian sculpture, may be traced 
also some of the Christian representations of 
God the Father as an old man seated on a 
throne. Moreover, the pagan multiple-headed 
divinities such as Hecate with three, Hermes 
with two, three, or four, and Janus with two 
heads survived in the Christian representations 
of the Trinity with three heads or three faces 
and even in those of Satan who is occasionally 
depicted with three faces. 

3 Landani, Pagan and Christian Rome, 25. 



While the early type of Christ, without beard, 
is thought by some to show reminiscences of 
the Graeco-Roman Apollo, there is a much 
clearer case of pagan influence in the repre- 
sentation of Christ as the Good Shepherd with 
a lamb on his shoulders. Going back as it does 
to the statue of Hermes carrying a ram (the 
original of which seems to have been a priest 
bearing a victim to sacrifice), this figure, in its 
preservation of the essential elements of the 
original with a complete change of symbolism, 
constitutes an unusually good example of the 
relation of Christian to pagan art. In a num- 
ber of paintings and reliefs found in the cata- 
combs Orpheus is substituted for the Good 
Shepherd. In these he is playing on his lyre 
as he watches his flock. In other represen- 
tations Orpheus, taming wild animals, sym- 
bolizes Christ instructing mankind. 

The pagan Sibyls became an important ele- 
ment in Christian art. It was believed that the 
Sibyl of Tibur had prophesied to Augustus the 
coming of Christ, and the traditional explana- 
tion of the name of the church of S. Maria in 
Aracoeli, erected in the ninth century on the 
Capitoline hill, is that it occupies the site of 
the altar erected by Augustus after the revela- 



tion. This tradition finds expression in the 
companion paintings of Augustus and of the 
Sibyl on the walls on either side of the arch 
behind the high altar. Michelangelo incor- 
porated the Sibyls in his paintings in the Sistine 
Chapel; Raphael painted them in the church 
of S. Maria della Pace, where they are repre- 
sented as recording the revelations imparted 
to them by angels; Pinturicchio depicted them 
in the Borgia apartments. They appear also in 
the Casa Santa at Loreto and in the pavement 
of the cathedral at Siena. 

There are many other adoptions or adaptions. 
Psyche, who already symbolized the soul in 
pagan art, was used in the same way by the 
Church. Christian sarcophagi of the fourth 
and fifth centuries reproduce in their bas-reliefs 
pagan scenes of genii busy with the vintage, the 
vine here being the true vine. The same decora- 
tive motive is employed in the blue mosaics of 
the fourth century in the vaulting of the ambu- 
latory of S. Costanza. The peacock which be- 
longed to the Hera- Juno cult became an emblem 
of the resurrection. In pagan art also origi- 
nated that extensive use of the nimbus found on 
Christian monuments. Among the pagans it 
was used in the representation of sun-gods; in 



some cases rays were made to emanate from the 
head; in others the nimbus had the form of a 
circular disk behind the head. The Christian 
development showed variety of form and greatly 
increased frequency of use. Sometimes the 
nimbus was circular, sometimes triangular; in 
other examples, it was square, in still others 
(especially in the case of divine persons) it was 
cruciform. It was used for the heads of the 
persons of the Trinity, the Madonna, angels, 
and saints. The immediate source of the Chris- 
tian nimbus may have been the representation 
of the sun-god, with rays shooting from his 
head, found on monuments of Mithras. How- 
ever this may be, Mithraic art is certainly re- 
sponsible for other elements on Christian monu- 
ments: for example, the images of the sun and 
moon, ocean, earth and sky, the signs of the 
Zodiac, the winds, and the seasons. 

Pagan and Christian motives were often 
used together. In the church of S. Andrea, 
constructed by Pope Simplicius in the fifth cen- 
tury out of the basilica of Bassus on the Es- 
quiline hill in Rome, mosaics of Christ and his 
apostles were combined with others of Diana, 
Hylas, and the Great Mother. These survived 
till the sixteenth century. Among the bas- 


reliefs that adorned the side-walls of the church 
of S. Martina, built in the ruins of the Secre- 
tarium Senatus, an annex to the Senate House, 
there was one which represented the emperor 
Marcus Aurelius sacrificing to Jupiter. This 
is now in the Palazzo dei Conservatori. The 
doors of St. Peter's show a strange contrast of 
Christian and pagan subjects, for while the 
main panels are decorated with Christian mo- 
tives, the borders are adorned with such scenes 
as Phrixus and Helle on the ram, Europa on the 
bull, Ganymede and the eagle, and Leda with 
the swan. 

That the Christians should have used so 
freely the plastic and pictorial inheritance that 
had come down to them from Roman times is 
not surprising. Their practice presents noth- 
ing novel in the history of religion. The ad- 
herents of other faiths have done the same. 
The followers of Buddha have been equally 
quick to adapt the images of the cults which 
their faith has superseded. Nor has Christian 
practice confined itself to the use of Greek or 
Roman images or motives. Leroy-Beaulieu 4 
tells us that there is an old Buriat idol in a 
monastery on Lake Baikal that has been trans- 

4 La religion dans I' empire des Tsars, 113. 



formed into a statue of St. Nicholas and is wor- 
shipped with equal zeal by Christian and non- 
Christian devotees. 


PAGAN altars sometimes found a place in Chris- 
tian churches. Till the eighteenth century an 
ancient altar supported the high altar in the 
church of S. Teodoro in Rome. Another, in 
the church of S. Michele in Gorgo, was adorned 
with bas-reliefs of the Great Mother and Attis. 
The altar now in the Capitoline museum, which 
some devotee of Isis dedicated to the goddess in 
gratitude for her protection during a journey, 
long stood in the church of Aracoeli, and in the 
same place there was another to the goddess 


THE round black stones that may be seen in 
some churches in Rome constitute a curious 
survival from pagan times. These stones, 
sometimes explained in connection with the 
martyrdom of saints, are nothing more than 
standard weights which the Romans used to 
keep in their temples. When churches super- 
seded the temples, the weights were transferred, 


and doubtless at first were used for their proper 
purpose. In the course of time, however, and 
with change of customs their significance was 
lost sight of. The best set is that in the church 
of S. Maria in Trastevere. 


EVEN the Arch of Constantine in Rome built 
in A.D. 316 to commemorate Constantine's vic- 
tory over Maxentius in 312 shows a blend- 
ing of pagan and Christian elements. For 
while on the most plausible interpretation the 
words of the inscription, instinctu divinitatis 
(" through the inspiration of God"), ascribe 
the victory over the tyrant to the aid of the 
God of the Christians, other parts of the arch 
are adorned with reliefs taken partly from a 
building of the period of Hadrian and partly 
from some monument of the Antonine age and 
representing scenes of pagan sacrifice. To be 
sure, the reference to Christianity lacks defi- 
niteness, but probably this was intentional. 
It was a compromise between the pagan and 
Christian parties in the state. The pagans 
could interpret it as a recognition of any god 
in their pantheon; to the Christians it meant 



only Christ. Physically this arch stands at 
the beginning of the road that runs between 
the Palatine and the Caelian, but spiritually 
it marks the parting of the ways in the religious 
history of Rome. 





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SDrtt to <&uttt attti l&ome 



S. DAVIS PAGE (memorial) 
DR. J. WILLIAM WHITE (memorial) 

The Philadelphia Society for the 
Promotion of Liberal Studies 


ORIC BATES (memorial) 







HENRY G. SHERRARD (memorial) 

Doylestown, Pennsylvania 

Kansas City 


New York 








Senatori Societatis Philosophiae, 
<1>BK, gratias maximas agimits 






And one contributor, who has 
asked to have his name with- 

Maecenas atavis edite regions, 

et praesiditim et duke decus meum 



The Greek Embassy at Washington, 
for the Greek Government 

SDrtt to 6rtc anti ftomc 



1. HOMER. John A. Scott \ Northwestern University. 

2. SAPPHO. David M. Robinson, The Johns Hopkins 


3. EURIPIDES. F. L. Lucas, King's College, Cambridge. 

4. ARISTOPHANES. Louis E. Lord, Oberlin College. 

5. DEMOSTHENES. Charles D. Adams, Dartmouth College. 

6. THE POETICS OF ARISTOTLE. Lane Cooper, Cornell 



Roberts, Leeds University. 

8. LTJCIAN. Francis G. Allinson, Brown University. 

9. CICERO AS PHILOSOPHER. Nelson G. McCrea, Columbia 


10. CICERO AND His INFLUENCE. John C. Rolfe, University 

of Pennsylvania. 

11. CATULLUS. Karl P. Harrington, Wesleyan University. 

12. LUCRETIUS AND EPICUREANISM, George Depue Hadzsits, 

University of Pennsylvania. 

13. OVID. Edward Kennard Rand, Harvard University. 

14. HORACE. Grant Showerman, University of Wisconsin. 

15. VIRGIL. John William Mackail, Balliol College, Oxford. 

16. SENECA, THE PHILOSOPHER. Richard Mott Gummere, 

The William Penn Charter School. 

17. APULEIUS. Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, Vassar College. 

1 8. MARTIAL. Paul Nixon, Bowdoin College, 

19. PLATONISM. Alfred Edward Taylor, University of 


20. ARISTOTELIANISM. John L. Stocks, University of Man- 



21. STOICISM. Robert Mark Wenley, University of Michigan. 

22. LANGUAGE AND PHILOLOGY. Roland G. Kent, University 

of Pennsylvania. 

23. AESCHYLUS AND SOPHOCLES. J. T. Sheppard, King's 

College, Cambridge. 

24. GREEK RELIGION. Walter Woodburn Hyde, University 

of Pennsylvania. 

25. ROMAN RELIGION. Gordon J. Laing, University of 


26. MYTHOLOGY. Jane Ellen Harrison , Newnham College, 



Clifford H. Moore, Harvard University. 

28. STAGE ANTIQUITIES. James Turney Allen ; University of 


29. PLAUTUS AND TERENCE. Gilbert Norwood, University 

of Toronto. 

30. ROMAN POLITICS. Frank Frost Abbott, Princeton 



University of Toronto. 

32. ANCIENT AND MODERN ROME. Rodolfo Lanciani, Rome. 

33. WARFARE BY LAND AND SEA. Eugene S. McCartney, 

University of Michigan. 

34. THE GREEK FATHERS. James Marshall Campbell, The 

Catholic University of America. 

35. GREEK BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE. Henry Osborn Baylor, 

New York. 

36. MATHEMATICS. David Eugene Smith, Teachers College, 

Columbia University. 


H. R. Fairclough, Leland Stanford Junior University. 

38. ANCIENT WRITING. B. L. Ullman, University of Chicago. 

39. THE FINE ARTS. Arthur Fairbanks, formerly of the 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 


40. ARCHITECTURE. Alfred M. Brooks, Swarthmore College. 

41. ENGINEERING. Alexander P. Gtf/, Rensselaer Polytechnic 



Gulicky Harvard University. 

43. ROMAN PRIVATE LIFE. Walton Brooks McDaniel, 

University of Pennsylvania. 

44. GREEK AND ROMAN FOLKLORE. William Reginald 

Halliday^ University of Liverpool. 


University of Bristol. ' 



ROMAN HISTORIANS. GugUelmo Ferrer v, Florence. 

ROMAN LAW. Roscoe Pound, Harvard Law School. 


CULTURE. Paul Shorey, University of Chicago.